Yamilet Valladolid is a healthcare force with a gentle but determined touch.
Her “day job” is as director of government and community affairs for Golden Valley Health Centers. She touches tens of thousands of lives yearly, helping everyone in need. She is blind to their race, religion, immigration, and economic status. Like any true hero, she concentrates on results, not headlines, awards, or platitudes.
Yamilet focuses on reimagining healthcare by ensuring everyone can access quality care. She understands that the hospital emergency room has become a primary care site for far too many residents in Merced, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties. In her healthcare world, clinics like Golden Valley would be readily available at all hours of the day or night to serve the needs of every community member.
But as she reimagines healthcare, she recognizes that our communities are aging in place. Many older residents will retire and find themselves economically challenged with the fear of losing their independence. For Yamilet, that is an opportunity to think differently about aging in place and to build healthcare solutions that support all residents to avoid the fear of going to a nursing home.
Reimagining healthcare also means opening new doors for local students to become doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals without fearing debt when they graduate. Yamilet understands that the Central Valley is an international melting pot of cultures, and this means having medical care providers who speak at least two languages and likely more. In addition, it means encouraging the next generation of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to visit patients in their homes because not everyone in the Central Valley can access transportation.
And, while telehealth services have grown in convenience and efficiency, nothing is more important than the human touch. We recognized that during and after the height of COVID when we hailed nurses, doctors, and other essential workers as heroes. It was true then and even more accurate today.
Yet while we were praising these healthcare heroes, thousands of others, such as Yamilet, were working behind the scenes to help ensure that everyone had access to compassionate care.
Yamilet does not seek praise or headlines. She is incredibly modest and dedicated to changing healthcare, even if it means one life at a time. And she is an excellent example of someone you cannot identify as a healthcare hero from the outside.
Yes, she is beautiful and kind, but also very private. While she does not speak about the ideal of equality - she exudes equality in everything she does. Yamilet stands as a role model for every young person.
She personifies American exceptionalism. And offers each of us hopes for what can be as we reimagine healthcare.
— Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment and the EMC Health Foundation. The views expressed are his own.