Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

We’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor the histories, cultures and contributions of our employees from Central and South America, Mexico and Spain. At Children’s of Alabama, we are united in our mission and dedication in providing the finest pediatric healthcare to all children. Each of the employees featured here contribute to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of inspiration and impact.

Melissa Aragon
Special Lab Service Technical Aide

What led you to a career in healthcare?

I always felt I had a calling into medicine. As a little girl, I never saw someone who looked like me represented in the healthcare field. This absence of representation ignited a passion, a desire to become the person I wished I had seen when I was younger. Furthering my desire to pave the way for others like me. This sense of purpose became even more tangible when I was offered the opportunity to intern at Children’s of Alabama. The thought of being able to work in a healthcare environment, even as an intern, was exciting. It allowed me to bridge the gap between my education and my aspirations, making my experience so much better.

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

My greatest source of inspiration has been and will always be my parents. From a young age, I witnessed their determination and willingness to leave behind everything they knew in pursuit of a better future for themselves and our big family. Their journey was not without challenges, but it instilled in me the core values of hard work, resilience, and sacrifice. I can never express my gratitude for their sacrifices to provide us with opportunities they never had. They instilled in us a deep love for our culture and language, which has become an asset in my journey. Thanks to them, I have the ability to provide services in two languages, while also becoming a liaison in making people feel more comfortable and understood.

While my parents are my ultimate inspiration, l am consistently inspired by the many Latino and Latina healthcare pioneers who paved the way for many of us. It is amazing to see their achievements and contributions to healthcare.  Only fueling my desire to become one of them.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?

My goal is to have a lasting impact on my community by creating opportunities and breaking down barriers for first-generation students like me. Representation has so much value, and it’s important to continue having it in healthcare. I want to convey that their dreams are never too big to achieve regardless of background or origin. I hope to contribute to a more inclusive and aspirational future for all through mentorship, advocacy, and storytelling.

Sam Rodriguez
Dental Assistant

What led you to a career in healthcare?
Since people began asking me about my future career, I have consistently expressed my interest in pursuing a healthcare profession. I have always been passionate about helping others, and I believe having Latino representation in the healthcare field is crucial, no matter what job type. Additionally, growing up, I have seen how the presence of Latino healthcare professionals makes Latino patients feel more at ease and supported.

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

My parents are my inspiration! They moved from El Salvador to the United States 27 years ago. For 26 of those years, they worked tirelessly in physically demanding construction jobs. Seeing them come home every day exhausted and witnessing their dedication to prioritizing their children before themselves has motivated me to become a worker like them, always prioritizing others over myself. My parents have overcome numerous challenges to reach their current position and serve as remarkable role models of hard work, kindness and compassion. 

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to impact other Latinos by showing that there are many jobs in healthcare, and they should seek them! For example, I’m a dental assistant, and before working here, I didn’t know Children’s of Alabama had a dental clinic and did dental surgeries. I want people to know that there are many opportunities in healthcare and that they should pursue them.

Liz Pallotta
Social Worker

What led you to a career in healthcare?

As a social worker, there are many different routes you can take whether that’s in the school system, hospice, child welfare and more. However, medical social work stood out to me because of the opportunity I have to build relationships with families and truly make an impact for those who have a child with special healthcare needs. Advocating and empowering families to be the best for their children is the most rewarding thing I can do for someone. 

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

My mother has been my biggest inspiration in all avenues of my life. When we moved from Panama to the United States, my mom was newly married, had three small children, left her family and everything she ever knew behind, and moved to a country without knowing the dominant language. It was impressive to see the life she built for herself and our family, and that has been the motivation that led me to be where I am today.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?

I want to be seen as a role model amongst my peers and an ally among communities. I hope to inspire others to want the best for themselves, to want the best for others and to do it all with kindness and love.  

Johanna Robbins
Inpatient Occupational Therapist

What led you to a career in healthcare?
I felt a career as a healthcare professional would provide me with the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Coming from a culture and family that wants to help and serve the community in different ways led me to choose this field. I had always wanted to work with kids, and after discovering that I could help individuals in different areas throughout their lives as an occupational therapist, I found my passion. I feel fortunate every day to have the opportunity to do a job that I love, and that can improve a child’s quality of life.

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

Many Latin women have inspired me in my life. The women in my family, every single one of them is talented, hardworking, passionate, kind, caring, loving and strong-spirited. My main inspirations are my mom, who taught me so many values and life skills to become the person I am today, and my aunt, a surgeon who inspired me to do my job with kindness, empathy and passion.

Another person who inspired me in my career was a professor who helped me go beyond expectations to achieve my goals: Adriana Rios. She is an occupational therapist from Colombia who is currently an assistant professor and researcher on the faculty of rehab medicine at the University of Alberta.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to make a difference in the lives of each individual and family I work with every day. I want to give them the proper tools to help them overcome obstacles or difficult situations that will aid them through vulnerable times, regardless of their disability, culture or language. I want to help them find their own way to succeed and improve their quality of life. I also want to inspire new generations to achieve their goals by sharing my personal and professional experiences, my culture and all the varied talents that we Hispanics have. We are a strong community full of values and talents, and I hope my professional work ethic and efforts positively represent that.

Check back this weekend to hear Melissa’s story of impact and inspiration.

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