Spend five minutes talking to Kristina Ramos-Callan, and one thing is absolutely clear: Kristina Ramos-Callan cares.
Kristina is a program manager for United Hospital Fund (UHF), where she has worked for over 13 years. “Working in the health care field kind of came naturally to me,” she said. “I didn’t envision it at first, but a lot of my family members worked at the old St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village, and I started working there myself when I was 17 as a ward clerk in a neo-natal intensive care unit. Over time, I became a caregiver myself—for my daughter, my parents and grandparents— and it became important to me to understand not just the role of the caregiver, but the larger issues of providing care at the community level, health care education and advocacy, and getting health care research and programs funded.”
“That’s what brought me to SLU,” she added. “I started out in the health care administration certificate program, and my very first class was on health care disparities, with Justin Laird. That course pulled everything together for me—my work at UHF, my personal experience as a caregiver, my background as a Latina who grew up in East New York, a poor community with limited access to health care. It was my ‘aha’ moment—that I could take what I learned in this course and every other course and apply it to my career. So, I got into the MAUS program.”
Kristina describes her organization as a think tank working to build a more effective health care system for the city and state, focused on improving affordability and access, quality and patient experience, and health equity for all New Yorkers. “We analyze public policy and make policy recommendations; and are also involved in strategic planning and quality improvement. For example, last summer we published a paper called The Road Forward: Framework for a Population Health Approach to Health and Housing Partnerships, which recommends developing community-wide partnerships between health care, housing, homeless services providers, and policymakers to help address New York City’s housing, homelessness, and health care crises.”
“In September, we launched the Pediatrics for an Equitable Developmental Start (PEDS) Learning Network, which aims to reduce inequities in childhood by increasing the number of young children receiving primary-care based interventions that promote and support healthy development.” Kristina developed an online resource for child health care practitioners for that initiative.
When COVID-19 hit New York City, Kristina also developed a list of COVID-19 resources for pediatricians and families that drew national notice. She just co-authored a new report, COVID-19 Ripple Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on Children in New York State, which found that thousands of New York chidren had
lost a parent or guardian to the virus. Over the summer she also wrote a commentary on the intersection of the coronavirus and the housing crisis in New York City entitled Critical Connections: Coordinating Health and Housing Needs during COVID-19. “The pandemic has driven so many people out of work, so many are experiencing economic hardship and are in danger of losing their housing,” Kristina said. “There was a moratorium on evictions, but as soon as that is lifted—and it eventually will be—people will start being processed for eviction. And it’s a fact that housing insecurity and homelessness are major drivers of increased health care needs and health system utilization. There is an entire group of people who are on the precipice of a major crisis, and a potential for surge in use of the health care system that will further complicate the response to the pandemic.”
What advice does Kristina have for SLU’s students? She paused, then said, “Two momentous things are happening right now: the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black and Brown
communities and low-income working class communities; and the ascendant acknowledgment and response to the epidemic of racism in the United States. Both have dramatically increased attention to
the legacy of racism—pervasive structural racism and implicit biases that many of us face, day to day; it can’t be ignored. People outside the civil rights and activism communities are finally waking up. It’s a new dawn for tackling structural inequities, because many more people’s eyes have been opened. They are finally starting to care. So, you are in exactly the right place at the right time. Use what you learn here at SLU to help change what needs to change.”