This interview is one in a series of interviews with recipients of the 2023 ACGME Awards. The awardees join an outstanding group of previous honorees whose work and contributions to graduate medical education (GME) represent the best in the field. They will be honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place this week in Nashville, Tennessee, from February 23-25, 2023.
2023 David C. Leach Awardee Evelyn Obregon, MD is a neonatal-perinatal medicine fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. At the time of nomination, Dr. Obregon was a resident in pediatrics at the University of Florida.
ACGME: Why did you want to become a physician?
Dr. Obregon: Being a doctor was meant for me because I always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives for good. My childhood experiences, particularly living in three different countries, made me realize that the art of medicine is universal. Unfortunately, not everyone had the same access to the highest quality of care. I understood very early that factors such as geography, race, language, or socioeconomic status play a huge role in access to health care. For this reason, ever since medical school, I aimed to include actionable items to address inequities in my research agenda.
ACGME: What, so far, has been the most rewarding part of your residency/fellowship?
Dr. Obregon: The most rewarding part of my residency has been working and becoming acquainted with my Hispanic community in Gainesville, Florida. I have navigated alongside many families the long, overwhelming, and complicated process of applying for health insurance for their children. However, witnessing their children thrive in the community during follow-up visits has made everything worthwhile.
ACGME: What has been the most challenging?
Dr. Obregon: The most challenging moment of my residency was training during the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, it was not only the emotional exhaustion of fearing for my loved ones but also witnessing helplessly how our Hispanic population was being affected the most.
ACGME: What innovation/improvement did you implement in your program?
Dr. Obregon: My project further cemented the relationship with two strong community organizations in the county. Children Beyond Our Borders (CBOB) and the Rural Woman Health Project (RWHP) have been crucial for the community. For example, RWHP provided the University of Florida pediatric clinics with resource cards in English and Spanish with information and general direction on access to care. Additionally, through multiple presentations of the findings, other residents also have the tools to make a difference and empower families.
ACGME: What does it mean to you to receive this award?
Dr. Obregon: I am honored to receive the David C. Leach Award for child advocacy. It fuels my commitment to improving child health and protecting our vulnerable populations. I believe that health equity research should include actionable items to help address the studied issue. For example, my project included aiding parents in navigating the insurance enrollment process. As a consequence, we were able to achieve two goals: understand the barriers to health insurance for Hispanic families and transition them from self-pay to being covered by Medicaid.
ACGME: What advice would you give to other residents/fellows who are looking to either replicate your improvement or implement an original idea of their own in their own program?
Dr. Obregon: My advice for other residents aiming to implement an original idea is to be mindful and respectful of the communities by developing projects that include their voice in its implementation. My project started as a pilot and received feedback from our partner organizations (RWHP and CBOB). We vetted questionnaires and decided how, when, and where to approach family members. Therefore, my main advice would be to build lasting relationships with local advocacy programs and non-profits within your community.
Learn more about the ACGME’s David C. Leach Award and nominate a deserving individual for the 2024 Award – nominations are due by March 15, 2023.