Florida group donates time and skills to Hispanic and Latino health, fire safety

June 5, 2019

Originally appeared in This Week at Mayo Clinic

A Florida MERG group supports local Hispanic and Latino communities by hosting a rural health fair and partnering with the American Red Cross to promote fire safety in at-risk neighborhoods.

In addition to promoting an appreciation of the Latino culture, diversity, and professional development within Mayo Clinic, the Association of Latinos at Mayo (ALMA) Mayo Employee Resource Group (MERG) in Florida actively supports local Hispanic and Latino communities through outreach. The group’s efforts this year have included a rural health fair and promoting fire safety in at-risk neighborhoods.

MERGs are staff-organized groups that form around common dimensions of diversity and promote cultural awareness, while connecting members to professional development and volunteering opportunities. One of the first MERG groups in Florida, the Association of Latinos at Mayo now includes nearly 300 staff members.

Community health fair

In February the group hosted a health fair benefitting a Hispanic farming community near Crescent City, Florida. Joining the cause, 24 Mayo Clinic staff members spanning various backgrounds and skill sets dedicated a full Sunday and many hours of advance planning to provide residents of the community with basic health assessments, education and services.

“We were proud to have staff from all three shields involved in this effort,” says Cristina Rosero De Ruales, chair of the Association of Latinos at Mayo MERG. “Physicians, nurses, researchers and many others volunteered their unique expertise to make it successful.”

The goal was to assess the health needs of the rural community and provide resources people may otherwise go without. Dana Harris, M.D., Primary Care Internal Medicine, and Richard White, M.D., Community Internal Medicine, were the medical champions for the event, helping coordinate the resources and support necessary to make a meaningful impact.

Together, the volunteers provided blood pressure and blood sugar readings, dental care and supplies, nutrition education, and eyeglasses. While parents received health screenings, their children were able to enjoy a craft table that was hosted by members of Dr. White’s family.

“Farmers have unique health needs, so there were many factors for us to consider when providing care,” Rosero De Ruales says. “Also, many Hispanics and Latinos are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, so having a nutritionist there was an important resource.”

The Association of Latinos at Mayo MERG hopes to take the information gathered at the event and return to the community in the future to continue providing care and resources.

“The members of the community were so grateful,” Rosero De Ruales says. “We are ready to offer more to them.”

Sound the Alarm fire safety event

The Mayo group also joined forces with the American Red Cross on May 4 to participate in Sound the Alarm, a national effort to install free fire alarms and educate at-risk neighborhoods about fire safety.

The group spent a Saturday sharing fire safety information, and installing fire alarms and new batteries, in a Hispanic subdivision of almost 200 homes in Jacksonville, Florida. Other Mayo Clinic staff and teachers from Florida State College at Jacksonville also donated their day to supporting the mission.

“Hispanics have an increased risk of death or injury in a house fire,” Rosero De Ruales says. “ALMA was a great partner on this project, since many of our members are bilingual.”

The Association of Latinos at Mayo MERG hopes to participate in Sound the Alarm again in 2020.

Mayo Employee Resource Groups are open and inclusive to all staff. They are a gateway to professional development, cultural awareness and sensitivity, as well as community outreach opportunities.

“Many times, we overlook the value that community involvement brings to our own professional development,” Rosero De Ruales says. “MERGs are a way to reach higher goals — both as a person and in your career — while stepping out of your comfort zone for the well-being of those in need. This strengthens our Mayo Clinic values and culture.”