For as long as she can remember, Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron has been inspired to help others. That selflessness was rewarded Jan. 27 as the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) Faculty and Staff Equity and Diversity Committee honored Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron with the annual Faculty and Staff Equity and Diversity Award for her promotion of equity and improvement of diversity and climate in the Madison community.
Dr. Patricia K. Kokotailo, a professor of Pediatrics, Director of Adolescent Medicine, and Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Faculty Affairs at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, presented Dr. Tellez-Giron with the award at the Wingra Clinic.
“I was very excited when I heard that I would be receiving this award,” Tellez-Giron told Madison365. “I first got the news that I had won in December close to Christmas and I was like, ‘Wow! My early Christmas!’ I was surprised because apparently a lot of people applied.”
Raised in Mexico City, Dr. Tellez-Giron received her medical degree, with honors, at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). She moved to the United States in 1993 to be with her family and to continue her education, and ever since has been working very actively with the Latino/a community of Madison. She completed the University of Wisconsin Family Medicine Residency program and soon after graduation joined the Faculty of same program and is now an associate professor. Her clinical practice is at the Wingra Clinic where more than 90 percent of her patients speak only Spanish.
“Equity and diversity are words that are used frequently,” Tellez-Giron said. “However, I don’t believe many people really understand their true meaning. It is not until you learn by personal experiences or by observing inequalities in the communities you serve that you finally understand their true meaning and importance.
“I started as faculty 15 years ago and I was (and still am) one of a few minority physicians in academics at UW-Madison,” she added. “People expected that because I was from a minority population I was fully knowledgeable and capable of providing care not only for my population but other minority populations. This put me in a difficult but important position and forced me to rapidly learn principles of cultural sensitivity, health disparities, and community health among others.”
Dr. Tellez-Giron is also the chair of the Latino Health Council in Madison and under her leadership several annual community initiatives have been started including the Latino Health Fair, Latino Chronic Disease Summit, Latino Mental Health summit and a Latino health teen bash. She is also the medical director and main presenter of a monthly health education Spanish radio program on the local Spanish radio station – La Movida 1480AM.
“Equity and diversity are words that are used frequently. However, I don’t believe many people really understand their true meaning. It is not until you learn by personal experiences or by observing inequalities in the communities you serve that you finally understand their true meaning and importance.”
Tellez-Giron was nominated by Dr. Ken Kushner, her longtime academic mentor. He wrote a recommendation letter for Tellez-Giron and she wrote a personal statement about why she should be considered for the award. In her personal statement, Tellez-Giron wrote, “Since I started as a resident 18 years ago at the clinical level I have been advocating for better services for the various populations we serve, particularly for Latinos. We now have several providers, receptionists, nurses, behavioral health consultants, and a social worker who are bilingual. By diversifying the clinic’s personnel our patients are receiving better care and therefore having better health outcomes.
“At the community level for the past 20 years through my work with the Latino Health Council, I have been instrumental in developing several community programs,” she added. “Twenty years ago we started the first ever Latino health fair, offering opportunities for uninsured people to come and have some of their preventive screening tests and to get more information about services.”
Tellez- Giron will add this award to many other previous awards she has won including the public health award for community advocacy for her work with the Latina community and the Wisconsin Well Women program in 2000. She has also won the AIDS Network Executive Director’s Award for Outstanding Community HIV/AIDS Service in 2004 and the Faculty Excellence Award for Community Service, also in 2004. In 2005, she received the “Wisconsin Family of the Year Award” from UMOS. In 2007, she won the UW Family Medicine Department Mark Hansen, MD Lectureship Award. In 2008, she won the UW Madison Outstanding Women of Color award and most recently in 2011, she was honored with the City-County Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.