Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, was recently named a Top 20 Latino Change Maker by The Sacramento Bee.

Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola Named Top 20 Latino Change Maker

Founding director of UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities recognized for being a leader in the capital region.

Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, founding director of UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, was recently named a Top 20 Latino Change Maker by The Sacramento Bee

"What inspires me to continue the work that I have doing is I feel a strong commitment to work for the underserved, to serve the underserved," he said in a video interview with The Sacramento Bee.

Aguilar-Gaxiola will be honored at the Unity Change Makers Celebration on March 22 at Sacramento State alongside the other Change Makers from the Latino, Black and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, including UC Davis faculty members Lorena Márquez, Ruth Shim and Dr. Primo Lara, Jr.

More on Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola from The Sacramento Bee story:
Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola

If Aguilar-Gaxiola closes his eyes, he can hear the voices of farmworkers “singing and joking around” as they lineup before dawn to buy tortillas from his parents in Sinaloa, Mexico. “That shaped my commitment to serve the underserved,” he said.

Impact: The California Department of Public Health enlisted Aguilar-Gaxiola to join a 14-member task force that recommended how COVID-19 vaccinations should be disseminated when they became available. While several task force members prioritized health care workers, Aguilar-Gaxiola said, he focused on hard data showing that 80% of people ages 24-59 dying from the virus were Latinos. His center contracted with CDPH and federal authorities to reach Latinos, employing mobile units to test, vaccinate and eventually provide antivirals to workers around the Sacramento Valley.

Among the center’s other work: Researchers led Solano County’s behavioral health team in working with Latino, Filipino and LGBTQ+ communities to find culturally competent strategies to boost the use of mental health services. Not only did calls for treatment jump, but members of each demographic also markedly increased their usage of outpatient services rather than waiting until they were in crisis to seek help.

Plans: Aguilar-Gaxiola and his peers continue to share their research proving health disparities decline when care is offered where low-income patients live and work. Building upon Aguilar-Gaxiola’s work with the National Academy of Medicine and Solano County, the UCD team is training county health personnel around California on best practices for community engagement.

Best advice: “If we collectively join hands to improve access to quality care, we can improve the utilization of services,” Aguilar-Gaxiola said.

Why a nominee: “Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola’s team undoubtedly has saved lives during the pandemic because many Latinos …learned they had COVID through the center’s mobile testing efforts,” said his colleague Edwin Garcia. 

Read the full story by The Sacramento Bee.