Cindy Nelson Kaigama and Rubén Vázquez Ruiz are working to help Minnesota Community Care to address health inequities in underserved communities in their new senior leadership roles with the nonprofit.
As director of innovation and learning, Kaigama is focusing in part on translating community needs into programs and services.
Vázquez, director of equity and inclusion, provides strategic leadership and development for organizational diversity, equity and inclusion priorities.
MCC, Minnesota’s largest federally qualified health center, serves patients regardless of income, insurance or immigration status at 16 clinical locations.
Kaigama most recently was regional health systems director for the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota. She has more than 20 years of experience as an educator, health and human services leader and social entrepreneur.
Vázquez, who has experience in education, community engagement and racial and social justice, most recently was vice president of racial justice and public policy at YWCA Minneapolis.
Kaigama has a master’s degree in human development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and a family studies degree from Western Michigan University.
Vázquez earned has a master’s degree in public administration from Hamline University and a political science degree from Metropolitan State University.
“Our vision at Minnesota Community Care is to be the leader in disrupting health inequities in Minnesota,” Reuben Moore, CEO of St. Paul-based Minnesota Community Care (MCC) said in a release. “Cindy and Rubén make us a stronger and more engaged organization at a time when our services are more needed than ever by the communities we serve.”
Q: How did you learn about MCC?
Kaigama: Minnesota Community Care was recruited to participate in [Alzheimer’s Association] training. I worked with them for a year to help provide education and training for their providers around dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and then I ended up working for them.
Vázquez: When my family immigrated from Mexico City in 1979 we were undocumented, until the mid-1980s. La Clinica [part of MCC, formerly known as West Side Community Health Services] was the place where we could get health care without worry or fear of being caught or taken back or separated. My family are still patients there.
Q: What are your priorities at MCC?
Vázquez: I used to be a patient walking into those doors to obtain services in a safe environment. Now it’s going back to the community to provide services to the staff so that the staff can be better equipped to provide services to the community. It’s about helping the organization build something to move this work forward in the space of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Kaigama: Redesigning the student learning experience. We want to make sure that our student population aligns with our patient population. I’ll be the director of the training institute and will help to provide coaching and leadership to diverse talent within our organization and serving as a partner with [human resources] with recruiting diverse talent. I’m making sure that we address the needs of our community health needs assessment.
Q: How are you approaching your work at MCC?
Vázquez: My goal is to challenge not only people but also the system to understand how their day-to-day work aligns with the mission of ensuring equity in health care for everyone.
Kaigama: I’m excited about this opportunity because I’ve worked with Minnesota Community Care as a community-based participatory researcher. Now to work here and create effective change internally and externally, I’m very humbled and still in awe.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.