Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Dr. Sandra Guerra
Transforming Communities, Health & Wellness
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx medical directors and chief medical officers across Centene health plans. Our medical directors play vital roles in everything from case review to acting as spokespersons advocating for healthy behaviors to shape and promote initiatives that improve the health of millions of members.
Dr. Sandra Guerra recently moved to Louisville, Kentucky and serves as Chief Medical Officer for Wellcare in the commonwealth.
She has a background in preventive medicine, with a medical degree from Texas A&M’s College of Medicine, and has experience in the public and private sectors – experience that has been helpful during the pandemic as Wellcare has worked closely with local health departments to help encourage COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
Dr. Guerra has made reaching Hispanic populations in the Louisville area a focus. She’s appeared on Spanish-language radio stations to promote COVID-19 vaccines, and Wellcare has been holding events targeting the Hispanic community.
Because of the language barrier, many Hispanic Kentuckians may have already faced health access issues, which is one of the reasons why the virus has had a disproportionate impact in this community, but Dr. Guerra has also noticed the impact that misinformation found on social media can have on compounding disparities.
That’s why it has been important for Wellcare to hold events in the community and partner with trusted community voices.
“When we’re able to bring resources to bear – information and volunteers – and bring them right into a neighborhood, we see people who come out who may at first just be curious, and then they’re able to communicate in the language they feel most comfortable with, and the next thing you know, they’re bringing along their families and friends,” Dr. Guerra said.
Part of the reason she is at Wellcare is that she believes the private sector can play an important role in improving health outcomes.
“The public and private sectors want the same thing – to improve healthcare,” said Dr. Guerra. “The difference is that the private sector often has the resources to make things happen, whether that’s related to addressing social determinants of health or other priorities.”
According to Dr. Guerra, who is the current chair of an annual American Heart Association campaign in Kentucky, she naturally gravitates toward the Spanish-speaking community – her cultural heritage being an important part of who she is.
As part of her work with the Heart Association, she’s participating in a Hispanic radio series, and she’ll be talking with her father, who is diabetic, about heart health. It gives her an opportunity to speak to the Hispanic community about a vital issue, directly discussing her family’s own experiences.
The pandemic has underlined how important it is for clinicians to look for as many avenues as possible to convey factual information and meet people where they are.
“Medical professionals have sometimes stayed away from non-traditional media,” Dr. Guerra said. “But we have to recognize that people are seeking information from a number of different sources, so we need to be willing to engage wherever they’re looking.”