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About Us

Our Mission | Who We Are | What We Are Working For | Our Work | Board Of Directors


The mission of Latinos for Healthcare Equity (LHE), formally named Latinos for National Health Insurance (LNHI), is to serve as a Latino-focused organization whose purpose is to educate government officials, organizations, media, leaders and the general public about the need to provide comprehensive, universal, accessible, equitable and affordable health services to every person living in the United States


Latinos for Healthcare Equity (LHE) is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit New York-based national organization created to improve access to quality, affordable health care for the Latino community. We came together in response to the deepening health crisis in our community and the growing demand that an equitable, universal health care program was needed for our nation.


We believe that every person residing in the United States and its territories has a right to equal access to high quality healthcare; and this should not be based on ability to pay.

While we live in the richest nation on earth, 13 % of the US population, around 41 million men, women and children, live below the poverty line. Even though our country spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world, we have worse health measures compared to other industrialized countries.

While there are many barriers in our community to adequate healthcare, such as language barriers, cultural competency, and lack of a diverse workforce, to name but a few, the primary barrier — preventing nearly a quarter of all Latinos from accessing the system — is lack of health insurance. We believe that the first step to end health disparities is to ensure that everyone has coverage, regardless of immigration status, which cannot be attained through the Affordable Care Act. That can best be accomplished with a national health insurance program, publicly financed, and privately delivered, where everyone is covered from birth. We believe in “One Health Insurance, For All, For Life”


We engage in educational activities intended to inform and advice government agencies, healthcare providers, media and legislators regarding health inequities and lack of healthcare coverage available to our community. We work with local and national groups to end health inequities affecting the Latino community, and all communities.

Through presentations, publications, and other outreach and advocacy efforts, we seek to inform groups and organizations, including elected officials, about ways to end health inequities and lack of healthcare coverage in our community.

Board Of Directors

Jaime R.TorresJaime R. Torres, DPM, MS -- President

Dr. Jaime R. Torres was appointed by President Obama and served as the Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region II from April 6, 2010 until July 18, 2014, covering serving New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In announcing his appointment, former Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "Jaime Torres brings an extensive, working-level knowledge of our department's most important issues, as well as a knowledge of the people and institutions in his region. His experience and talents will be invaluable as our department works to effectively implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

He also serves as Vice President of Community Relations & Partnerships at Urban Health Plan, a large community health centers network in New York.

Earlier in his career he was Associate Director of Consultative Services at Coler Memorial Hospital in New York City, part of the N Y C Health + Hospital -- the largest public health system in the nation. He has served in leaderships positions as Board Member of the National Hispanic Council on Aging, and on the Advisory Board of the National Hispanic Medical Association (2000-2006).

In 1984, after completing his residency, he worked in the South Bronx where he saw firsthand the human reality of health disparities and the plight of the uninsured and underinsured. He began to work with local community groups to provide bilingual educational materials and to improve health services. In order to learn more about health policy and he applied and was accepted to the National Hispanic Medical Association’s Leadership Program, and completed a Master of Science in Community Health from Long Island University.

In 2005, with Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, he founded Latinos for National Health Insurance,–which became Latinos for Healthcare Equity – a national coalition of Latino leaders advocating for a national health insurance program and equality in health care. In this capacity convened many forums and Congressional briefings which helped educate Latino organizations and elected officials on efforts to reform health care and health disparities.

Dr. Torres is also an Associate at the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, where the education founded by the philosopher, poet and historian Eli Siegel is taught. He is co-author of Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism (Orange Angle Press 2004) and a frequent speaker on topics including racism, the uninsured, and ethics in healthcare issues. Additionally, he has authored articles which have been printed across the United States in both Spanish and English, concerning ethics and the healthcare system.

Because of his advocacy work on healthcare, he named as one of “100 Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business Magazine and the "EL" Award from EL Diario La Prensa. He has also been honored with The National Hispanic Medical Association Health Leadership Award and the NY Commission on the Public’s Health System Healthcare Hero Award. In 2018 he was presented with “The Best In Our Community” award by Comite Noviembre for his work to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Description: Brendaly RodriguezBrendaly Rodriguez, CPH

Recipient of 2017 Community Advocate Award by the Latino Center on Aging (LCA) and the 2012 Sunshine Health Education Champion Award from the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SFLHCC), Ms. Rodríguez currently manages the Community and Stakeholder Engagement (CASE) for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at University of Miami. She also manages the Consortium Core at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Meharry Medical College and University of Miami’s Precision Medicine and Health Disparities Collaborative. For five years she was Adjunct Communication Faculty at Miami Dade College - North Campus.

She previously managed the community outreach, research and training activities of the South Florida Center for Cancer Disparities also at University of Miami. The center aims to test the CHW/promotora model as a culturally and linguistically appropriate intervention to increase cervical cancer screening for Latinas, Haitians and African American women in South Florida, while educating communities in cervical cancer prevention/HPV. For the previous 4 years, she was the Manager for Communications and Community Outreach at the Miami Field Center-Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS-SOL), also at University of Miami.

She is experienced in providing technical assistance in Hispanic/Latino communities, language and culture issues, public health, social marketing, health communication and evaluation practice areas for the Center for culture, Ethnicity and Health in Australia, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her dossier includes a long list of peer-reviewed posters, presentations and guest speaker invitations at the national level and abroad.

Ms. Rodríguez is a Fulbright Senior Communication Scholar (Germany-1997), and also a certified Bilingual Healthcare Provider and a certified translator in Spanish-English by the National Australian Association of Translators and Interpreters (NAATI-1999). She received her master’s degree in intercultural communication from Arizona State University, 2-yrs of PhD coursework in Curriculum and Instruction, and a certificate on epidemiology of diabetes from the University of Cambridge. Throughout her career she has accrued over 15 years experience in health communications specializing qualitative social behavioral research with culturally and linguistically diverse groups in USA and Australia.

Description: Michael MelendezMichael J. Melendez, LMSW,

Following retirement from the federal government as the Associate Regional Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) New York Office Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health Operations at the close of December 2018, Michael founded MJM CONTIGO, LLC where he serves as he LLC’s Principal. MJM Contigo specializes in providing consultation services in the areas of government health insurance, primarily Medicare and Medicaid. In this role Michael is honored to serve as a subject matter expert specific to the differences between how the federal Medicaid programs regulations are different for the US Territories and the impact these differences have for the health care systems as well as the US citizens that reside there and rely on Medicaid for their healthcare.

Michael is the former Associate Regional Administrator of CMS Region II, part of the team responsible for working with the States of New York, New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. In this capacity, Michael provided leadership to the federal team in the oversight of State agencies in program development, implementation, and maintenance, monitoring and financial reporting of federal finances and execution of state agency activities regarding Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Before joining CMS, Michael held various positions in State and City governments including, President of the Bronx Health & Human Services Development Corporation and Health and Human Services Director in the Office of the Bronx Borough President, Director of Public Information for the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, and as a Policy Specialist in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Drug Abuse Policy. Michael also has substantial clinical experience specializing in alcohol and chemical dependency.

Michael obtained a Masters in Social Work Administration from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Nilsa GutierrezNilsa Gutierrez, MD, MPH

Dr. Nilsa Gutierrez was the Chief Medical Officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Region II, which includes New York State, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. , Her expertise in Medicare and Medicaid program policy differences in the US Territories has been critical to assessing the underlying disparities and their impact on health and disease in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Prior to working at CMS, Dr. Gutierrez was director of the New York State AIDS Institute responsible for advising the Governor, state health commissioner and legislature on HIV/AIDS policy and funding. She was instrumental in ensuring the continuum of HIV care and services statewide, and emphasized the importance of recommending HIV testing to every woman during pregnancy for early access to treatment. In 1997 she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

A graduate from SUNY Stony Brook’s School of Medicine in 1980 she establishing herself early in her career as a socially conscious practitioner, and started practicing in community health centers in the Lower East Side and Central Harlem. She has a Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and is Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

Gutierrez has received various awards over the years for her work. She was given the Exceptional Service Award by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service, Region II, the Outstanding Women Leaders in Health Care Award from the Association of Hispanic health Care Executives, along with other honors.

Description: Antonio I Fernandez, MBA.jpg  Antonio I Fernandez, MBA

Mr. Fernández has over thirty years of experience in the health care field working within a broad diversity of health of settings, including serving as senior executive in various healthcare organizations in Puerto Rico as well as in the United States. Mr. Fernández’s experience spans a broad range of areas in the health industry, including health information technology, behavioral health care, and specialized services to children, adolescents, and elderly populations in for-profit, not for profit organizations and government projects in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America and the Caribbean.

At the present time, Mr. Fernández is Director of the Ponce School of Medicine Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (REC) which is responsible for the implementation of Electronic Health Records among physicians in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Mr. Fernández was President of United HealthCare Plans of Puerto Rico, and Vice President and Director of International Programs of Miami Children’s Hospital.

Mr. Fernández holds a Masters in Business Administration, and a Certificate from the from the Institute for Health Administration and Research, as well as a Bachelors of Arts from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.

Policy Advisors

Description: Olveen CarrasquilloOlveen Carrasquillo, MD, MPH

Dr. Carrasquillo is a Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. He is Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and oversees a clinical, teaching and research enterprise of 40 full time faculty including three private clinical practices and an additional ambulatory hospital based clinic at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He is also Division Head of Health Services Research and Policy in the Department of Public Health Sciences where he leads a group of 7 full time research faculty.

He is a Puerto Rican born physician who was raised in the Bronx. He graduated summa cum laude from the Sophie Davis School of Bio-Medical Education at City College, and obtained his MD degree from the New York University School of Medicine. He completed a three-year internal medicine residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, Harvard’s two-year General Medicine Fellowship and an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. Prior to UM, Dr. Carrasquillo was an Associate Professor of Medicine, Health Policy and Community Partnerships at Columbia University and Director of their Center of Excellence in Health Disparities Research.

Dr. Carrasquillo research interests are in minority health, health disparities, community based participatory research and access to care. He has over fifteen years of experience leading several NIH Center grants and large randomized trials, totaling over $30 million, in various disease areas including diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and various cancers. He also directs UM’s Primary Care Fellowship Program and the Community Engagement and Cultural Diversity component of the Clinical Translation Science Institute. His research has been published in a variety of journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health.

Dr. Carrasquillo is active in various organizations, including numerous current and past leadership roles in the Society of General Internal Medicine, Physicians for a National Health Program and the National Hispanic Medical Association. He is a Board Member of the Miami-Dade Area Health Education Center and the South Florida Health Council. He is also co-founder of Latinos for Healthcare Equity. Dr. Carrasquillo is often called upon by the media to discuss his research as well as health care topics of particular relevance to the Hispanic community including being a frequent guest on most of the major Latino television networks

Description: Juan A Figueroa  Juan A. Figueroa, JD

Dr. Figueroa is President & CEO of the Jefferson Foundation in Missouri with the mission to is to provide support for charitable and educational activities that promote individual and community health and well-being in Jefferson County. He was the former Acting Chief of Staff for Hartford’s Mayor Pedro E. Segarra. Prior to that he was the president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. During his tenure, the Foundation has made a major impact on health care policy in the state and solidified its position as a catalyst for universal health care.

Under Mr. Figueroa, the Foundation has expanded its partnerships and coalitions with a broad spectrum of business, medical providers, clergy and labor. The Foundation’s grant making, research and communications strategies have been widely recognized, and played a pivotal role in moving universal care to the forefront of the state’s policy agenda. In 2006, the Foundation launched a statewide public education campaign on the benefits of universal health care that has garnered national attention. Mr. Figueroa brings a successful background in policy, law and civil rights to his visionary leadership at the Foundation.

A former Connecticut legislator and Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Figueroa was also a staff attorney for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Prior to assuming the helm at the Foundation, he was the president and general counsel of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City. During the Clinton Administration, he worked with the President and his top advisers on affirmative action, judicial appointments and The Hartford Business Journal, the region’s largest business publication, named Mr. Figueroa as one of its 2007 “Health Care Heroes” for his contribution to the advancement of health care in our state.

Mr. Figueroa received his Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University in California and his Bachelor of Arts from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He received honorary doctorates from CUNY Law School in New York and Charter Oak College in Connecticut, and has taught at New York University Law School. Mr. Figueroa is a native of Ciales, Puerto Rico.