Ed. Note: For Women’s History Month, we’re profiling women who have played significant roles in the health center movement. Also view our profiles of Janie Geer, Dr. Marilyn H. Gaston and Jessie Collins Trice.
For nearly 30 years, Carmela Castellano-Garcia, Esq., has been committed to advancing equity in health care, with a focus on multicultural issues and vulnerable populations, while also nurturing the next generation of women leaders.
“I’ve dedicated my life to advocating for those in need, fighting for social justice, and improving the health of all Californians,” says Castellano-Garcia. “I’ve learned nearly anything can be accomplished through hard work and a tenacious spirit. My passion for social change is what drives me, but my family is at the heart of everything I do.”
Currently, Castellano-Garcia serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the California Primary Care Association (CPCA). Under her leadership, Community Health Centers in the state have increased the number of patients they serve annually by more than 300 percent. The amount of federal funding flowing to the state’s health centers has increased during her tenure and the number of health center sites has more than doubled.
A lawyer by training, Castellano-Garcia combined her advocacy skills with her interest in health care and social justice issues soon after graduating from Yale Law School. In addition to leading CPCA, she founded an affiliate organization in 2015, CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates, that has given her more tools, including lobbying, to improve Californians’ access to affordable and quality health care.
Throughout her career, Castellano-Garcia has made it a priority to nurture the professional development of younger women, particularly women of color. As she explains, the slow pace of change in the representation of women of color in leadership is partially what motivates her to support women just starting down their own professional paths:
“When I became CEO of the California Primary Care Association more than two decades ago, I was one of only a handful of nonprofit trade association leaders in the state that was a female of color. I’ve seen very little change since then, and we still have a lot to do in this area. Encouraging and empowering women leaders, women from diverse backgrounds and different sectors, is important and something we should all be committed to. I was lucky to have strong women mentor me throughout my life and career, which continues to drive my own passion for mentoring other young women. Investing in our future leaders, leading by example, giving others a platform and path for upward mobility in every sector is critical to breaking down barriers — and ultimately glass ceilings.”