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Latino Leadership Council

We would like to introduce you to our Latino Leadership Council, a group of leaders who will help guide new work to reach and engage Hispanics in the United States, territories and various islands.

It is no secret that Latinos often avoid conversation about end-of-life care. Ironically, we often experience the highest rates of life-threatening illnesses, yet we are the least likely to complete advance directives or discuss with our loved ones under which circumstances, if any, we want to receive medical interventions to prolong life or an agonizing dying process.

However, we can address these disparities, by communicating with our doctors and loved ones about, if we become too sick to speak for ourselves, whether we would want to be kept “alive” with aggressive, debilitating treatments that only prolong the dying process.

Mauricio Ochmann, Actor, California

Mauricio Ochmann is a Mexican actor known as “Chema Venegas” in the popular Telemundo telenovelas El Chema (nickname for “Jose Maria”) and El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies). He recently broke records with the international film Hazlo Como Hombre (Do it Like a Man) in which he stars with his actress wife, Aislinn Derbez.

In Oct. 2014, Ochmann became the first celebrity in Hollywood to publicly endorse Compassion & Choices’ campaign to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation in California at a time when many Latinos were reluctant to engage in conversations about end-of-life care. In 2016, Mauricio recorded a 15-second public service announcement in Spanish that we released last March to urge Latinos to support the passage of New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act.

“As Latinos, we learn early on to accept death because of our culture’s reverence to celebrate the lives of our beloved dead. However, we are afraid to talk about death itself. We must honor our dying loved ones in their final days and give them the opportunity to control the timing and manner of their passing.”

Resources

Mauricio Ochmann interviewed by Telemundo in Los Angeles
Hoy coverage of Mauricio Ochmann in Los Angeles
National coverage of Mauricio Ochmann on Telemundo
People en Español coverage of Mauricio Ochmann’s PSA supporting medical aid in dying
Mauricio Ochmann’s work with Compassion & Choices is featured in on Telemundo’s Don Francisco Presenta

Reverend Dr. Ignacio Castuera, Minister, California

Reverend Castuera is a minister at the United Methodist Church in Claremont, California. He is a civil and human rights activist who worked on the California campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act.

A former Compassion & Choices board member, Rev. Castuera has championed numerous social issues that have grown quickly into wider acceptance. He was the national chaplain for Planned Parenthood for six years, married gay couples on national and international television, and has been a strong voice in the movement to authorize the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults. Rev. Castuera holds a Doctor of Religion degree from Claremont School of Theology and taught Contemporary Theology at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology for 25 years.

“As a minister, I have had the privilege to counsel many people as they prepare for the end of their lives. I learned that many preferred to die with dignity rather than live with excruciating pain and unnecessary suffering from a terminal illness.”

Resources:

Reverend Castuera’s editorial about end-of-life planning

Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights Activist, California

Dolores Huerta is an iconic civil rights activist, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and cofounder of the United Farm Workers Union. She has won numerous national awards, including the the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Her support of the End of Life Option Act in California was critical important to the passage of the law because she encouraged Latino legislators who were hesitant to support the bill in 2015.
Dolores’ advocacy was inspired by helping watching her mother’s suffering as she died from terminal breast cancer that had spread throughout her body.

“I have spent my life fighting to empower workers, women and disenfranchised communities. I advocate for and support passing medical aid-in-dying laws because they have strict safeguards to protect vulnerable people from abuse and coercion, while honoring the fundamental human right to decide how and when we die, when death is inevitable.”

Resources:

Sacramento Bee coverage of Dolores Huerta lobbying for California’s End of Life Option Act
Dolores Huerta’s op-ed for the Sacramento Bee
Dolores Huerta’s op-ed to the San Jose Mercury News
Dolores Huerta’s op-ed to La Opinión

Robert Olvera, Medical Doctor, California

Robert Olvera, Medical Doctor, California Dr Olvera is a retired family practice/sports medicine physician from Southern California. He was in practice for over 30 years with Bristol Park Medical Group and Memorial Care Medical Group before retiring in 2014.

Dr. Olvera trained as a Corpsman in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam era. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Irvine, and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. Following his graduation from Harvard, he completed his residency back at UC Irvine in Family Medicine.

Dr. Olvera and his wife have three daughters and five grandchildren. In 1996, their youngest daughter, Emily Rose (then age 7), was diagnosed with a very rare form of leukemia. Even though she was able to achieve remission, she continued on chemotherapy for a total of 13 years before the leukemia relapsed in her spinal fluid and brain in 2011, shortly before her 22nd birthday.

Despite having a bone marrow transplant in 2012, Emily’s leukemia relapsed again in 2013 and invaded her brain. After an Ommaya reservoir was inserted directly into her brain for target chemotherapy, she fought feverishly to live. In January 2014, Emily went blind and had a stroke, and decided at age 25 that she could no longer continue her fight, that she was tired, and that she could no longer live with her severe headaches that no amount of pain medicine could relieve. She expressed to her father, Dr. Olvera, her wish to die from a sleeping aid, which was not possible then, as it was against the law.

Emily passed away in April 2014, after almost four months of being bedridden at home and suffering beyond belief. Emily inspired Dr. Olvera to fight for medical aid in dying as hIs daughter had wished for, so that no other person would ever have to suffer at the end of their life, like his young daughter did. He began volunteering for Compassion & Choices in late 2014, traveling to the Capitol in Sacramento many times, speaking to senators and congressmen, telling the story of his sweet Emily Rose. Dr. Olvera helped Emily’s wish become law in California two years later. He feels strongly that dying people should have a voice and full options. “I understand the desperate need for medical aid-in-dying laws because I wish my 25-year-old daughter, Emily Rose, had this option.

Emily Rose should have had the option to request a prescription for a medication to prevent the four-month agony that ended on April 26, 2014.

“I understand the desperate need for medical aid-in-dying laws because I wish my 25-year-old daughter, Emily Rose, had this option. Emily Rose should have had the option to request a prescription for a medication to prevent the four-month agony that ended on April 26, 2014.”

Resources:

Op-ed by Dr. Olvera for the Orange County Register
La Opiníon story about Dr. Olvera and his work to pass California’s End of Life Option Act
Story about Dr. Olvera and his work in California for KVEA
EFE story about Dr. Olvera and his work to pass California’s End of Life Option Act
Hoy Los Angeles story about Dr. Olvera and his work to pass California’s End of Life Option Act

Dan Diaz, California

Dan Diaz is the husband of Brittany Maynard, who died in November 2014 from a brain tumor. The couple moved from California to Oregon, one of four states at that time that had authorized medical aid in dying so Brittany could get the prescription for aid-in-dying medication to ensure she would have a gentle dying process instead of an agonizing one.

As a result of Brittany’s story, in 2015 legislators introduced bills to authorize medical aid in dying in California, 24 other states as well as Washington, D.C. Dan advocates for expanding the availability of end-of-life care options for terminally ill, mentally capable individuals. Dan’s efforts were instrumental in securing the passage of the End of Life Option Act in California, and his efforts to advance similar bills continue in the other states across the country.

“I promised Brittany that I’d keep fighting to expand end-of-life care options for terminally ill individuals across the country. Will you join me?”

Resources:

Jorge Ramos’s exclusive interview with Dan Diaz for Al Punto
Jorge Ramos interview with Dan Diaz for Al Punto
“Brittany’s Last Moments” Univision interview with Dan Diaz
Dan Diaz op-ed for the East Bay Times
LatinoCalifornia.com editorializes about Dan Diaz’s story and work to pass California’s End of Life Option Act

Father Luis Barrios, New York

Father Luis Barrios is a priest at Iglesia Episcopal Santa Cruz/Holyrood Episcopal Church and a professor at John Jay College in New York City.

“I don’t have a problem with the notion of death, because death is a part of life. It’s how we face it and the way we go through the dying process that makes a difference.”

Resources:

El Diario: “New York Religious Supports Assisted Death Act”
Father Luis Barrios op-ed for El Diario

Pastor Sergio Camacho, California

Pastor Sergio Camacho is the Latino ministry pastor at Lancaster United Methodist Church.

“We all need to accept the fact that the spiritual truth for each individual will vary and that the end-of-life option each terminally ill dying person chooses needs to be honored and respected.”

Resources:

Pastor Sergio Camacho’s op-ed to California’s Daily Bulletin
Hoy Los Angeles featuring Pastor Sergio Camacho
Pastor Sergio Camacho’s op-ed to the Los Angeles Daily News

Nilsa Centeno, Puerto Rico

Nilsa Centeno is the mother of the late Miguel Carrasquillo, a 35-year-old former chef in Chicago and New York who died in his native Puerto Rico of brain cancer in June 2016. He became Compassion & Choices’ first bilingual advocate when he recorded videos in English and in Spanish to urge his fellow Latinos to support giving terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying.

Miguel proudly referred to himself as the “Latino Brittany Maynard” because he was inspired by Brittany Maynard’s advocacy. Unfortunately, Miguel died without this option to end his agonizing pain.

Since Miguel’s death, six states with large Latino populations have either passed or introduced laws to authorize medical aid in dying: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. Latino lawmakers are sponsors of legislation in four of those states: Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and New York. Thanks in part to Miguel’s advocacy, Latino support for medical aid-in-dying is at 69 percent nationwide.

Nilsa, a devout Catholic, became an advocate for Compassion & Choices shortly before her son’s death to fulfill the promise she made to him: she would urge Latino lawmakers and Latino voters to support medical aid-in-dying legislation in Puerto Rico and throughout the country.

“My son Miguel was was not a sinner for wanting to die peacefully. He simply wanted end to his suffering, not out of despair or depression, but to maintain some comfort in his final days so that he could pass gently.”

Resources:

Coverage of Nilsa and Miguel

Irisaida Isa Mendez, Florida

Irisaida ‘Isa’ Mendez is a seasoned multicultural communications and development consultant for leading corporations looking to penetrate the Latin American and US Hispanic markets. She has held a variety of leadership roles at Make-A-Wish Foundation and San Jorge Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico, Spirit Airlines and the American Red Cross. Her trademark is to create strategies that promote philanthropic interest for individuals and the corporate world.

“Working closely with cancer patients changed my perspective on the fight for living, the process of dying, dignity, suffering and the impact this process has on our loved ones. As Latinos we fear talking about the death process, we don’t even like to prepare for it. Our strong religious background makes us believe that it is all about fighting to stay alive even if it means giving up living.”

Dr. Yanira Cruz, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Yanira Cruz is president and chief executive officer of the National Hispanic Council on Aging in Washington, D.C. She earned a Master’s degree and a Doctorate degree in public health with a specialty in global health from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

“My mother would have wanted the option of medical aid in dying. Latino Americans need and want these humane laws.”

Resources:

Dr. Yanira Cruz’s op-ed to The Hill: All Americans should have access to all end-of-life care options

Maria D. Ulloa Otero, New Mexico

Maria D. Ulloa Otero is an immigrant, community leader, health educator and grassroots activist committed to social justice who empowers communities to be active in their own healthcare. She has been a public health professional for more than 20 years and co-founded Nuestra Salud, a community-based organization whose mission is to reduce health disparities affecting Hispanic communities in New Mexico through research, training and outreach.

Maria works with minority populations to provide health education on maternal child health, reproductive rights, tobacco-use prevention, chronic-disease risk factors and end-of-life options. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and lay media. She has provided numerous interviews, in English and Spanish, addressing the entire trajectory of public health and received national and international awards for her professional accomplishments.

Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree from New Mexico State University and has dedicated her entire career to dismantling oppression and empowering communities to have a voice.

“I believe having medical aid in dying as an option at the end of life is a basic human right. A terminally ill adult facing imminent suffering should not be denied a peaceful and dignified death.”

Jorge Lambrinos, California

Jorge Lambrinos is a founding director of the Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging at the University of Southern California (USC). Mr. Lambrinos has been actively involved in the field of aging for more than 30 years, developing programs and services that benefit the aging community. He spent several years in Washington, D.C. serving as the House Select Committee on Aging staff director, and as Congressman Edward R. Roybal’s chief of staff, helping the California congressman restore funding for low-cost health programs and expand public housing programs for seniors. After returning to California, Mr. Lambrinos was named director of the Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology at California State University, Los Angeles, and stayed at the helm when it moved to USC in 2007. He is a board member for the Hispanic Council on Aging, a member of the AARP California executive council. He was also  appointed to the California Commission on Aging. Mr. Lambrinos is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served in Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Provide Comfort.

Maria Lemus, California

Maria Lemus is founding Executive Director of Vision Y Compromiso a 501 C (3) non profit organization since 2000. Visión y Compromiso and its Promotora and Community Health Worker Network is committed to supporting Promotoras and Community Health Workers (P/CHW) towards achieving healthy and dignified lives for Latinos who endure disproportionate rates of health disparities by providing leadership, capacity building and advocacy for over 4000 Promotores and Community Health Workers associated with clinics, hospitals, community based organizations in rural and urban communities.

Ms. Lemus is a member of several national advisory committees including the Health and Human Services Promotores Advisory Committee, Latino Best Baby Initiative, National Teen Pregnancy Initiative, Hispanic/Latino Workgroup of the National Diabetes Educational Program- a diabetes education program of NIH and CDC; the National Alliance for Latino Behavioral Health Workforce Development, National Latino Infant Nutrition Initiative, the California Latino Mental Health Concilio for the Reducing Health Disparity Project, the Family Violence Prevention Fund Intimate Partner Violence Education Project and the California Hispanic American Cancer Society Hispanic Advisory Committee,  March of Dimes and the Preconception Advisory Committee in California.

Prior to Visión y Compromiso, Ms. Lemus was active as a community consultant to local community organizations.  Ms. Lemus 21 years management experience in Rural Health Division of the California Department of Health Services and the AIDS Office, City and County of San Francisco and the California Department of Corrections.                              

Ms. Lemus received a California State Assembly Recognition Resolution, is an alum of the National Hispana Leadership Institute and the California Women’s Policy Institute of the Womens Foundation, received the Community Latina Award by the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, the Champions of Health Award from the California Center for Public Health, and the Siempre Award by Tiburcio Vasquez Community Clinic, served as a Board member of the Koshland Committee at the San Francisco Foundation, a Fellow of the Purpose Prize, Fellow of the Mexican American Solidarity Foundation, recipient of the Contra Costa Women’s Hall of Fame “Women Improving Healthcare,”  Faculty Advisor for the Women’s Health Leadership and mentor for emerging women leaders, Outstanding PTA President Award, Past President California Chicano Correctional Workers Association.

Ms. Lemus received her B.A degree from the University of California Riverside.  She was born in San Bernardino, CA of Mexican parents, has been married 30 years and has two adult children.

Guillermo Chacón, New York City

Guillermo Chacón is a native El Salvadoran who lives in New York. He studied education at the National University of El Salvador and attended Fordham University in the Organizational Leadership program.

Guillermo serves on several advisory boards in New York. He is chair of the HIV/AIDS Services Administration Community Advisory Board. In 2014, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo also appointed him to serve on the statewide task force to develop HIV/AIDS recommendations for the “End the AIDS Epidemic” plan in New York by 2020. In 2012, Governor Cuomo nominated Guillermo, and the New York State Health Committee confirmed him to serve on the New York State Minority Health Council and the New York State AIDS Advisory Council. Previously, Guillermo served on  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources & Service Administration until November 30, 2016.

The harsh reality is that no matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the cycle of life and death. My belief is that if the time comes when we can’t bear the suffering that afflicted Miguel [Carrasquillo] and so many of my friends who died of cancer or AIDS, a merciful God will understand that we all should have the option to die peacefully.”

Resources: 

El Diario NY: “Perspectiva católica y latina sobre el sufrimiento de fin de vida”
Unvision: Interview about medical aid in dying
Voices of New York: Latino Groups Endorse Medical Aid in Dying Act

Daniel Turner-Lloveras, MD

Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras is an assistant professor of medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles at Harbor-UCLA. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 2009. He completed his residency training in internal medicine at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he began his four year commitment as a National Health Service Corp scholar in Los Angeles, where he worked as a primary care physician and hospitalist in the Watts and Skid Row areas from 2012-2016.

Dr. Turner-Lloveras is the regional Chair for the West of the National Hispanic Medical Association.