OPCA-Annual-Awards-2022-Health-Equity-&-Social-Justice--Posthumous-AwardEdgar Pizano (August 20, 1990 – July 31, 2021) was a dedicated, engaging, and lively member of the Virginia Garcia family. He was also a persistent and sincere advocate for our patients, the communities we serve, and the VG workforce.

Edgar’s journey at Virginia Garcia began as a dental receptionist at the McMinnville clinic in 2015. He then joined their primary care team as a Panel Care Team Assistant where he coordinated referrals to specialists and tracked patients with abnormal tests to ensure they received appropriate follow-up care. In 2016, Edgar took a role as VG’s Patient Engagement Specialist, where he leveraged his experience working with patients to lead patient advisory councils at our five primary care sites, manage patient complaints and safety portal incidents, and collaborate with sites and services lines to collect and share patient experience survey results. When Virginia Garcia reorganized our primary care leadership model 2017, Edgar eagerly became one of the first Clinical Team Leads in the McMinnville Primary Care Clinic. In this role, he supervised an integrated care team leading them to meet (and exceed) clinical quality metric goals for the team panel and the clinic. Colorectal Cancer Screening was among one of the most challenging metrics to meet.

As a passionate advocate of cancer screening, both in the clinic and the community, Edgar’s work resulted in a significant increase in the rate of screening among our patients (see story below). Edgar was always committed to challenging himself to learn new skills and grow as a leader. He pursued leadership positions at another Community Health Center in 2019 but decided to return to a leadership role at the Hillsboro Primary Care Clinic in August of 2020. He returned just in time to lead the roll-out of REALD and champion access to COVID-19 vaccines for our staff, patients and community (see stories below).

When Edgar returned to Virginia Garcia in 2020, he shared that leaving VG for a brief time really showed him that his heart was with this organization and the patients and communities we serve. He brought his passion and his lived experiences to the work he did, turning those experiences into campaigns targeting the needs of the intersectional communities he loved and championed.

“As a community, we still feel the loss of Edgar. After a year, we are still grieving. And we still look to Edgar as a role model for advocating for health equity in our communities. We can think of no one that embodied the work and values of health equity and social justice more than Edgar Pizano.”

-Sarah Deines, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center

Examples of Edgar’s advocacy for patients and vulnerable communities include:

Colorectal Cancer Screening Campaign

Edgar was a vocal, and persistent, advocate for cancer screening in the community. He was especially committed to educating the Latinx community about the need for screening to prevent colorectal cancer-related deaths. This dedication came from his personal experience of losing his father to colorectal cancer. Edgar took this passion and made it his mission to share with his community and our patients the importance of screening.

REALD Data collection

During the pandemic, Edgar served as a Front Office Supervisor at the Virginia Garcia Hillsboro Primary Care Clinic. In this role, he was on the front lines, interacting with patients and supporting his team through the constantly changing information, rules, and guidance about COVID-19. As the state rolled out REALD requirements for COVID-19 tests, Virginia Garcia struggled to figure out the logistics of creating new systems and training staff who were already exhausted from frequent changes due to the pandemic. Edgar recognized the purpose and value of collecting demographic data that more accurately reflected the individuals and communities we serve and stepped in to lead the organization in operationalizing REALD. He spoke with passion to our staff about the alignment of REALD with VG’s mission. His ability to communicate with our staff about our role in contributing to data collection that can inform and support health equity initiatives inspired our staff to embrace this work.

COVID-19 Vaccine

As a leader during the pandemic, Edgar observed the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on the Latinx community. Virginia Garcia’s COVID-19 positivity rates were consistently 2-5+ times higher than the state average. During the early days of COVID-19 vaccine availability, Edgar took a leadership role in supporting his site to maximize access to vaccines. When operational challenges presented themselves, such as how to efficiently and effectively collect insurance and demographic information from community members, Edgar took the lead to create workflows for the organization. He also created systems to streamline COVID-19 vaccine access for staff household members, knowing that our staff represent the vulnerable communities we are committed to serving. Edgar served as a personal ambassador, advocating for vaccination among his family, friends, and community as an effective means to reduce the risk of harm from COVID-19.

These are just a few of the organization, and community, wide examples that demonstrate Edgar’s commitment to equity for the patients we serve. This doesn’t capture the many daily acts of kindness, advocacy, or support of individual patients and staff. Edgar made things happen for those who needed help. He worked hard to ensure that vulnerable individuals received the care they needed, sometimes by finding an appointment when schedules were full, and sometimes by creating mass vaccine clinics for those who needed vaccines the most.

Through it all, Edgar was committed to lifting up those around him. He was known for dancing, laughing, encouraging, and challenging everyone to be patient-centered and innovative. People often used the word “passionate” to describe Edgar. In the thesaurus, synonyms for passionate include heartfelt, dramatic, expressive, fierce, impassioned, & spirited. Edgar was all of these.

As a community, we still feel the loss of Edgar. After a year, we are still grieving. And we still look to Edgar as a role model for advocating for health equity in our communities. We can think of no one that embodied the work and values of health equity and social justice more than Edgar Pizano.

-Nomination written by Sarah Dienes, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center