Dr. Maritza Alvarado began her career in medicine in Newport News, VA where many members of the community she served weren’t able to travel 20 minutes to the nearest hospital in Norfolk for health care services due to a lack of transportation, income, or the ability to take time away from their jobs and families. As one of only two pediatricians in her clinic, she understood the vital role she played as one of the key providers of essential, preventative care the community needed.
Maritza cannot remember a time when she did not want to become a pediatrician. “Growing up in New York, I recognized that many children in the underserved areas of the state had little access to primary care services, so I wanted to become part of a movement that helped families in underserved areas of the country,” she said.
Maritza applied for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship program to fulfill her desire to care for communities in need and help manage her medical school debt while attending the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. After graduating, she worked with the underserved population of Newport News for two years helping parents better understand and help treat their children.
“The key is getting patients in the door. In my community, not only was the travel to Norfolk costly and time consuming, but many people did not want to make the trip if they were not in immediate need. This made preventive care in the community a difficult task. We were there to make a difference in the way families engage with their doctor – keeping each other informed and building a lifelong relationship,” Maritza said.
Maritza is now the Medical Director of the Syracuse City School District, where she applies her passion and experience to improving the health of students in over 33 schools in the city. Here, she also helps treat myriad issues, including answering emergency calls from the nursing staff and educating patients and their families about health care. She has found that her fluency in Spanish has enabled her to work better with parents of the students because they have the ability to fully express themselves with her.
“My experience with the Corps opened many doors for me,” she said. “I was given responsibility and exposure to experiences that have served me throughout my career.”
In her current community, Maritza donates her time to an initiative that educates parents of children with asthma and provides support. In addition, she is developing a program to address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. She also is currently a member of the National Hispanic Medical Association and the Onondaga County Pediatric Society.
“I love Syracuse, and I plan to stay here indefinitely,” she said, “The NHSC really kick-started my career and prepared me for the future. I learned that I love working in public health, in communities which need my care the most. Furthermore, I saw firsthand the need for primary care providers who can deliver services to those who have so many barriers to care.”