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Dr. Marina: Investing in our communities’ health

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez praised Last Friday’s Vaccination Awareness Day when students got the day off in order to get shots.

“We had almost 6,700 students vaccinated. Over 5,800 were 5-11-year-olds,” celebrated Martinez. But one doctor who has been at the forefront of the COVID battle is skeptical.

“What I worry about is that I am not sure that it was paired appropriately with an increased access to vaccines,” said Dr. Marina Del Rios, former emergency room doctor at the University of Illinois Hospital, and member of the Illinois Unidos coalition.

COVID-19 cases are moving in the wrong direction across Illinois and Dr. Del Rios fears health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic continue to persist. “There are areas in the City that are health-care deserts,” she said in an interview on the Latino News Network’s “3 Questions With…” podcast. “Until we invest in the long term to ensure that every community has the same access to primary care – we’re going to continue to see these disparities.”

According to research conducted in 2019 by the University of Chicago Medicine, African American census tracts in large US cities, Chicago included – are more likely than white majority neighborhoods to be located in trauma care deserts that are greater than five miles from a trauma center offering emergency medical services and specialists.

Dr. Del Rios was the first person in Chicago to be vaccinated against COVID-19. “Sometimes people just need to see someone that they know, that they trust, who has gone through it,” she said in an interview with WTTW at the time she was inoculated. “That’s why I felt it was very important for me to step up, not only as a medical provider but also as a medical provider who is Latina to show my community to say that ‘Hey, I understand your concerns.”

Dr. Del Rios has been leading by example since COVID-19 besieged the City’s Hispanic-Latino community, joining Illinois Unidos, a coalition of over 100 health professionals, community-based organizations, elected and appointed officials, and interested professionals. The organization has been credited for providing invaluable information and counsel to Governor J. B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“We’re trying to communicate both at the City and State level – community-based organizations that have the cultural sensitivity, the language competency to reach a segment of the population that may not be easily reached by your usual health-care organizations,” she said.


SUGGESTION: The Community Can Deliver A Better COVID-19 Message Than Health Officials, The Chicago Reporter

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Dr. Marina Del Rios, the first person in Chicago to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Dec. 15, 2020 (Photo Credit: Ashlee Rezin)

Dr. Marina Del Rios, MD, MS is currently an emergency physician at the University of Iowa. She is an emergency physician with over 16 years of experience working in tertiary care hospitals serving marginalized communities in New York City and Chicago.

Dr. Del Rios is a health services researcher with a special interest in resuscitation science, social emergency medicine, and population health. She is a physician in the frontlines working as a nocturnist in the emergency department during the COVID19 pandemic, first in the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago and now in the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City.

She is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Carver College of Medicine of the University of Iowa and Adjunct Professor of Emergency Medicine at the College of Medicine of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She has received competitive funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, Medtronic Philanthropy, and the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation. 

Dr. Del Rios has a deep commitment to service, spending her time outside of her clinical, research, and teaching responsibilities as a volunteer for multiple health and community service agencies. She is a founding member of the Illinois Heart Rescue Project, a state-wide quality improvement project with the mission to ensure that every victim of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest receives evidence-based care in the field, in route to, and in the hospital.

She serves as the Vice-Chair of the Science Subcommittee of the Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee of the American Heart Association. She has volunteered with the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID19 Health Equity Task Force, the Restore Illinois Health Justice Workgroup, and the city of Chicago Racial Equity Rapid Response Team.

She is an active member of the Puerto Rican Agenda’s Health Committee. Dr. Del Rios also serves as Chair of the Health and Policy Committee of Illinois Unidos, a cross-sectoral partnership of elected and appointed officials, health professionals, and leaders of community-based organizations that aims to stop the transmission of COVID-19 and address the pandemic’s devastating public health and economic impact in Latinx communities.

Her advocacy on behalf of the Latinx community during the COVID19 pandemic led to her recognition as one of Negocios Now 2020 Who’s Who in Chicago Hispanic Power, as one of Chicago Crain’s Business 2020 Notable Health Care Heroes, and as the 2021 Spirit of Hope by Association House. 


Publisher’s Note: ILLatinoNews partners with The Chicago Reporter in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

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