September 24th, 2022
We are proud to nominate Maribel Renteria for OPCA’s 2022 Health Equity and Social Justice Award as a tribute to her dedication and efforts to support the health of Oregon’s agricultural workers.
Maribel is a clinic manager in a small three-room medical clinic in rural Canby, Oregon. Thanks to her leadership, this little clinic makes a big difference in the health of regional migrant farmworkers by bringing necessary but often inaccessible care to this vulnerable population.
Her dedication and passion come from her experiences growing up in Central California, as the child of Mexican field and farm workers. Maribel began working alongside her family when she was just 15 years old.
When she began her career with Neighborhood Health Center (NHC) as a medical receptionist in 2014, Maribel was 24. Her exceptional ability to connect with and understand marginalized patients helped Maribel move quickly from receptionist to referral coordinator and later clinic manager in three short years.
“Maribel very quickly became a significant presence at NHC, ”says Blain A. West, Chief Financial Officer & Chief Operating Officer. “She is very passionate about the diverse Canby and Latinx community that she is a part of.”
Maribel ensures patient-centered care is easily accessible for all at the Canby clinic. Her mostly bilingual team puts out extra effort to support patients through education and support. Under Maribel’s leadership, they take the time one-on-one to listen, earn trust, and build relationships with migrant farmworkers.
“Maribel is a strong advocate for equitable access to care and looks for opportunities to collaborate with partners to ensure our community members can access care and connect to resources that lead to better health outcomes. She is a thoughtful and compassionate team leader, and embodies NHC’s values of patient-centered care, respect, transparency, continuous improvement, and health and wellness in carrying out our mission as a community health center.”
-Alynn Vienot-Hayes, Interim Director of Primary Care Operations, Neighborhood Health Center
Her approach allows her to dispel fears and encourage underserved patients to seek medical care when needed. For example, when a Hispanic patient who had little family support, and couldn’t read or write in English, was having problems taking his medications correctly, Maribel and her team spent much time with him. They helped to implement a system that allowed him to understand the instructions and timing of all his prescriptions.
In the community, Maribel regularly leads teams to provide outreach in the fields and returns to farms and fields time and again to support the health of migrant workers .She has championed NHC’s efforts to reach migrant farmworkers and their families through her initiative and perseverance and is an active part of NHC and Clackamas County’s commitment to find a better solution to reducing vaccination barriers for migrant farmworkers in Oregon.
She works to build and grow relationships with nurseries, farms, non-profits, and businesses where migrant farmworkers and their families work and live. She schedules and leads teams to offer flu vaccination clinics, help with detailed and often confusing paperwork, and supplies needed resources for migrant farmworkers and their families.
Her efforts only increased during the pandemic, as she prioritized outreach opportunities and helped identify processes that could be improved to lessen disparities, giving equitable access to all populations. She has regularly facilitated teams to distribute PPE and testing kits, educate workers, and administer vaccines. Early on, she helped NHC secure a National Center for Farmworker Health grant to get more masks and personal protective equipment in the hands of farmworkers, sharing these supplies with community partners to help distribute so the needed PPE would travel farther and faster.
Maribel’s exceptional effort to transform primary care experiences in her clinic and community improves health equity, and her dedication often motivates those around her to action. “I find Maribel has a quiet way of advocating for patients and staff in every conversation that she has. Even during hard times, Maribel remains positive and willing to go the extra mile for her patients and staff,” says Melissa Nystrom, Director of Quality Improvement. “As a leader, she sets a great example of how to keep NHC’s mission at the center of everything we do.”
–Submission made by Victoria Michaels, Communications Manager, Neighborhood Health Center