- Luis Belen
Luis Belén serves as founding co-chair of the HIMSS Latino Community and was recently featured in “O”—The Oprah Magazine. The HIMSS Latino initiative focuses on the health IT needs of the Latino community, currently constituting the nation’s largest minority at 16 percent of the U.S. population, with projected growth to 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.
With over 10 years of experience in managing and implementing enterprise technology projects, Luis Belén is the Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of VWCGlobal, a leader in strategic business development and technology solutions for small- to mid-sized enterprises, with offices in Florida and New Jersey. In addition, Belén is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Medic Success, a firm that provides health-related solutions for underserved communities and facilitates an interface with industry, organizations and government agencies. He plays a critical role in the continued development of the company’s strategic growth and strategic partnerships. He is an active board member and advisor to several nonprofit organizations. He is a trusted advisor to the NHIT Collaborative for the Underserved, charged with fostering the use of health IT to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare for minority populations and with providing support for health IT planning, research and evaluation, adoption and utilization, education and outreach, workforce development and training, finance and sustainability, and policy development and implementation to underserved communities.
Belén obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University in New York, N.Y. and attended the A Better Chance – Strath Haven program in Swarthmore, PA.
HIMSS: How did you become involved with HIMSS? Belén: I first attended HIMSS10, and had the opportunity to participate on the HIMSS Diversity Business Roundtable for Health IT. This initiative offers diverse business owners, such as myself, the opportunity to collaborate and network. I thought this was an important initiative, since it offered a vast array of educational and other resources that help to develop diverse businesses.
HIMSS: How did you become involved with the HIMSS Latino Community? Belén: I have long been mindful of the fact that healthcare disparities exist within the Latino population and other underserved communities. However, I have also been aware of the positive reach of the HIMSS organization within the health IT sector. I envisioned a unique opportunity to leverage that reach for the sake of our communities, with the end-result being a new initiative that would ensure the advancement and improvement of healthcare delivery within the Latino population.
I began working with David Roberts, Vice President of Government Relations, regarding the positive impact this could potentially have. The senior leadership of the HIMSS organization agreed and supported the initiative. Dr. Harris, HIMSS Chair, appointed me as the founding co-chair of the HIMSS Latino Community, along with my partner, Danny Vargas, to be guided under the leadership of Erica Pantuso, Vice President of Regional Affairs.
HIMSS: What is the most rewarding aspect of being the co-chair of the HIMSS Latino Community? Belén: Knowing that we can and will make a difference has to be the most rewarding aspect. Every single day, there is a collaborative dialogue that takes place between the HIMSS Latino Community and leaders in healthcare, IT and government. Those crucial dialogues have provided extraordinary opportunities for the HIMSS Latino Community, including being recently selected to moderate the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute’s “Congressional Briefing on Health IT”, with the purpose being to provide congressional leaders with a detailed overview of the State of Latino Health and the importance of health IT.
The HIMSS Latino Community has also been actively involved, as a partner, with the “Houston EHR Donation Program.” In collaboration with the Office of Minority Health, Quest Diagnostics (MedPlus), and the NHIT Collaborative for the Underserved, the program’s purpose is to donate 75 EHR licenses to providers serving the Latino population in Houston, Texas.
Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that professionals, providers and vendors are equipped with the resources necessary to deliver state-of-the art healthcare technology solutions to the entire Latino population. That goal extends to our communities in the United States, and all of Latin America, as well. Personally, as a father of four small children, I have a vested interest in ensuring that healthcare disparities within the Latino community are eradicated once and for all. The success of the HIMSS Latino Community initiative will have a profound impact for generations to come.
HIMSS: What was the greatest challenge you face as co-chair of the community? Belén: The HIMSS Latino Community officially launched during the HIMSS11 conference in Orlando. The initiative is still very young, and therefore, we are working on building a solid foundation. With the support of HIMSS leadership, the HIMSS Latino Board of Advisors, our members, and corporate sponsorship, I am confident that we can turn great challenges into great opportunities.
HIMSS: I was informed that you recently appeared in “O” Magazine. Could you tell me about the article? Belén:I appeared in the December issue of The Oprah Magazine. The article, “The Ripple Effect,” highlights the impact that Oprah’s scholarship fund at Morehouse College has had since its inception in 1989. One of the initial 10 Oprah Winfrey Scholars was my mentor, Shaka Rasheed. The article mentions how Shaka mentored me when I was an intern at J.P. Morgan, and later inspired me to launch my private consulting company, Medic Success, a firm focused on connecting health providers, and agencies with underserved communities.
HIMSS: What do you hope to accomplish within the HIMSS Latino Community in the coming year? Belén:I would like to see an outpouring of support during the HIMSS Latino Community sessions of HIMSS12. By then, we would like to have reached the 1,000-member mark. We will get there, but we have some work to do before then.
An increase in HIMSS Latino Community membership would parallel the reality that the Latino community is the fastest growing community in the nation, and represents the country’s largest minority at 16 percent of the total population. There are approximately 2.3 million Hispanic-owned small businesses in the United States, representing one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. I would like for our nation’s leaders to recognize the value that our population has to offer. In essence, a healthier Latino community would be extremely beneficial to this country’s bottom line. We can achieve this through improved delivery of care.
HIMSS: What advice would you give professionals just entering the healthcare or IT field? Belén: First off, I’d like to applaud those young professionals who have decided to enter the healthcare/IT fields. There is a need for informed and trained leadership in the healthcare field to guide the process of ensuring that services are accessible, responsive to the needs of the population, and incorporate effective approaches and interventions. With the advent of health IT, there is also an ever-growing need for higher levels of strategic, analytical, and operational management skills to administer processes within increasingly complex healthcare environments. As it relates to the Latino population, the value of culturally competent management is increasingly important as well.
I would like to highlight one final point. Trends have indicated that our nation’s healthcare services and organizations are transitioning from provider-driven models to more patient-centric and customer-focused delivery systems. To those professionals entering the healthcare field, my advice is simple: observe the Golden Rule. In my opinion, it is important to remember that at one point or another, we are all patients. As highlighted in Oprah’s article, the ripple effect is very real. It starts with one kind gesture or deed. But, the key is that it must first start.
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