Healthforce Center recently spoke with Thelma Rodriguez who is the clinic manager at Belmont Wellness Center- Asian Pacific Health Care Venture, Inc. and an alum of the Cedars-Sinai Managing to Leading Program. She shared her motivation for working in community health, her insights about our program and advice for potential applicants.
Q: Tell me about your background. How did you get involved with community health centers?
A: I started at the front office for my organization, Asian Pacific Health Care Venture (APHCV). A year into it they made me a supervisor for the floor. Then, I landed as a clinic manager for Belmont Wellness Center, a clinic that is part of APHCV. I love the work and I love giving back to the community.
Q: What does your role entail?
A: As clinic manager at Belmont Wellness Center, I work with students from several schools in the neighborhood, in particular Belmont High School. Any time staff at the local schools need to refer a patient for a physical or wellness check, the counselors or nurses refer out to our location. We take care of physicals for patients and connect people with the services they need, whether that’s mental health or dental.
Q: Many of your patients are political refugees fleeing violence and dealing with trauma. How does that motivate you?
A: It motivates me in many different ways. I’m an immigrant from Guatemala. My parents brought me here when I was six because they were fleeing violence. I’m so blessed that I’ve had so many opportunities and I want to help others. Many patients I work with have never had vision or physical checkups. A lot of the newcomers have never been to school before—many of them can’t read or write. We have an opportunity to help them focus on education and improve their lives.
Q: What were some highlights from Cedars-Sinai’s Managing to Leading program?
A: The networking has allowed me to provide more for my patients. For example, I now refer patients to a trusted dental provider, a connection I made through the program. I learned how to manage staff better. I also learned how to navigate changes and plan for the future. I learned how to listen better to our staff, communicate better and manage my time.
Q: What did you learn about yourself from going through the program?
A: It definitely impacted my self-esteem. I’m a little shy about speaking out and giving presentations. Due to this program, I’ve been able to learn from that. They gave me the tools to make me more at ease. I’m still working on that, but my confidence has greatly improved.
Q: Since graduating from the program have you noticed any changes in the way you lead?
A: Yes, I learned that my staff all come from different personalities. Some like working with deadlines and others don’t. I now understand them better. That really helped.
Q: What advice do you have for someone considering applying for this program?
A: You’d be insane if you don’t do it. People often think they already have all the tools in their pocket, but there are new tools that can help them better themselves and better their work. It is so motivating to meet directors, CEOs, etc. who have gone through similar experiences. At times, I doubted my ability to complete the program, but the staff are there at every stage to support you and help you. You just need to go for it. I get very emotional because this was a big opportunity to learn about who I am, my personality, other people and understanding my staff. I will never stop learning and to be a great leader you have to continue learning every day.
Q: Any additional comments?
A: Managing to Leading has touched so many different lives. When alumni go back to their clinics they touch a whole community. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity.