It is unfortunate if you have lived on this planet without meeting Virgilio Licona, MD. Those of us who have been in the same room with Dr. Licona, as a patient, colleague, or audience to one of his thoughtful speeches about healthcare, well, we just feel grateful to have stood near his shadow. Dr. Licona has made the world a better place, and continues to do so. But we write about him today because we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of health centers, and this month are focusing our efforts on the people who have helped the movement and mission thrive. One of those people is Dr. Licona, who has been practicing medicine for more than 40 years.
Dr. Licona has been a Vice President of Medical Services at Salud Family Health Centers, in Fort Lupton, CO, since 2000. (Salud is an extensive primary health care delivery system with eleven community, migrant, children, and women’s health clinics in northeastern and north-central Colorado). He is without doubt a national leader in providing culturally appropriate, quality care to special populations. He doesn’t just provide care as a doctor. Rather, he takes the time to understand the intricacies of health policy at the local, state, and national level because doing so helped arm his efforts as a passionate advocate on behalf of the medically underserved.
“I first met Dr. Licona at a NACHC grants training in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was working at another health center at the time and recall being blown away by his passion and knowledge,” says Jennifer Morse, Vice President of Development for Salud. “Years later, I had the good fortune to join Salud and to work WITH the very rockstar every day. His commitment to our patients and communities is inspiring and unwavering. He is an incredible colleague, always encouraging you to grow, learn and contribute your best, as our patients, mission and history as a health center demands it of us!”
He served three-year terms on the National Advisory Council of the National Health Service Corps and the National Rural Health Advisory Committee, and was the immediate past president of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Licona used his leadership positions as a bully pulpit to push for better access and better quality of care for those who need it most. And when he pushed people listened to his message not because he was right, but because he had the grace and humor to win over even the staunchest opposition. Dr. Licona was also the recipient of the Colorado Minority Health Forum’s “Outstanding Contributor to Minority Health Care in Colorado for 2000,” and it’s worth noting that the award is now called the “Dr. Virgilio Licona Award” because he cast the mold.
For these reasons and many more Dr. Licona is also a recipient of this year’s Samuel U. Rogers award, which will be presented at the NACHC Community Health Institute and EXPO next month. The award was established in 1977 in honor of the late Dr. Samuel U. Rodgers, a health care provider, community activist, and national leader in health and civil rights, and is presented to a distinguished primary care clinician who exemplifies excellence in clinical practice and leadership at the local, state, or national level.
If you have someone working at your health center who is as a cool as Dr. Licona tell us about him or her, and we’ll feature them on this blog.