Cynthia Perez-Vaughan immigrated to the United States with her family from Latin America nearly 20 years ago. She completed her Bachelor’s in Communications from San Francisco State University. Cynthia lived in the Bay Area and Los Angeles for years working in the Spanish media where she reported on stories related to health, immigration, and other topics affecting the Spanish community in the U.S while also fine-tuning her ability to connect with individuals through interviews.
Eventually after returning to the Bay Area she was connected to HealthFirst through a friend. She started at HealthFirst four years ago as a patient service representative where she served as a receptionist at the front desk and helped with administrative tasks. Cynthia fell in love with the program and decided to get her certificate from San Francisco City College to become a Community Health Worker (CHW). “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to work in health care” says Cynthia. In 2010, Cynthia became a certified CHW and in 2011 when a spot opened up at HealthFirst she applied and got the position.
“Working at HealthFirst, opened my eyes to focusing on my own health and the health of my family” says Cynthia. Since working at HealthFirst, Cynthia has taken serious action towards improving her own health. Using the programs at HealthFirst, specifically the well balanced plate plan, Cynthia has been able to lose 32 pounds over the last year. After she began to lose weight and with the encouragement of a friend she began to train for the San Francisco Half Marathon and completed it this past July in less than 3 hours, something she never thought possible before HealthFirst. Patients that have been with HealthFirst for the past year have seen Cynthia’s transformation first hand and often ask how she did it. “Knowing that diabetes runs in my family has inspired me to make lifestyle changes but also the patients at HealthFirst have inspired me to make lifestyle changes” Cynthia says “I have to practice what I preach.”
Cynthia’s personal transformation has allowed her to connect at a deeper level with patients during their coaching sessions. She says that since she is bi-lingual and familiar with the cultural norms of the community HealthFirst serves, she is able to make patients feel more at ease and share information with them that they might not be able to get elsewhere. Cynthia also says that her perspective as an immigrant, someone with a family history of addiction and diabetes, as well as her recent health transformation, allows her to relate to patients and motivate them to make changes in their own health. Cynthia is still focused on portion control and exercise to continue to lose weight and improve her health while reducing her risk of disease.