Latinas in Healthcare
A Response to COVID-19
By Nilda Melissa Diaz
Latinas have been at the forefront during the all-hands-on-deck emergency response to COVID-19. In local
communities all the way to the federal government, their knowledge has help shape how the nation has handled this
historic crisis. Meet Dr. Adelaida Rosario, Lieutenant, U.S. Public Health Service, Separations Specialist
Office of the Surgeon General, and Dr. Melissa Mercado, Behavioral Scientist, Division of Violence Prevention at
CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. While their stories and specialties are different, their passions
are the same: to help our communities. Their work started long before the coronavirus, growing up with the support of
their familias and, as Dr. Rosario says, the stubborn perseverance to work that represents Latinas.
Dr. Adelaida Rosario
Lieutenant, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Separations Specialist,
Office of the Surgeon General
“Public Health Service is a key player in providing needs such as government
testing, vaccines, and examinations,” shares Dr. Adelaida M. Rosario, Scientist,
Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We
have at least half of the quarters deployed.”
An expert in minority health Dr. Rosario has two concerns regarding COVID-19
and Latinos: The amount of community cooperation to optimize keeping each other
safe, and fear of misinformation.
"It’s unfortunate the way COVID brought attention to these disparities," she
shares. According to the National Institute of Minority Health, some of those
disparities include: language barrier, lack of access to preventative care and lack of
Joining the Surgeon General’s Office months before the pandemic as a
scientist providing expert knowledge on minority health disparities and social
welfare, she believes it is important to be
in the community to help and assist in as
much as possible. Whether it is medical
or health training, her team and office
provide immediate response to the needs
of communities affected by disaster, be it
natural or man-made.
Dr. Rosario’s journey to the Surgeon
General’s Office has been beyond what
she could’ve ever imagined.
Born in Guam and raised in Miami
to a Guamanian mother and Cuban father
in a traditional immigrant household,
“you’re in survival mode,” she shares.
“You’re indoctrinated to pursue traditional
It was in Guam that, after spending
time with her maternal family, she
decided to pursue a master’s degree
in Micronesian Studies.
She believes her future presented
itself at that moment.
“The public health needs in Guam
are so severe that I remember telling
myself I want to get to a point in my life
I want to help at a level that makes it
different,” she shares.
After completing her master’s,
she returned to Florida and, in 2014,
completed a Ph.D. in Social Welfare.
That same year, she started working
at the National Institute of Health
Minority Health Institute in Maryland. It
was here that she learned about U.S.
Public Health Service.
"I thought it was the most
Dr. Adelaida Rosario.
spectacular opportunity to pursue," she shares. "To not only have this federal
position but help make decisions and impact nationwide.”
Today she credits mentors for lending a hand in her career journey as she
did not arrive at OSG alone. Dr. Rosario encourages Latinas to pursue public
health. “It’s critical that Latinas pursue public health. This envelope needs to
continue to be pushed,” she shares. “And, we do it in a very graceful fashion.”
Dr. Rosario (right) receives the USPHS Commissioned Corps
Humanitarian Service and Global Health Award with Team Remdesivir.
Dr. Rosario looks over at the
Tokyo Tower after a long day
during her deployment to assist
the COVID-19 positive
hospitalized in Japan from the
Diamond Princess cruise ship.
8 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle V ol. 27, No. 3, 2021