Board Highlight: Karen Aguirre – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Board Highlight: Karen Aguirre

October 31, 2022

Karen Aguirre is a proud southside, Chicago-raised, Latinx from Back of the Yards. Her lived experience in growing up in a pre-dominantly Black and Latinx immigrant neighborhood with limited affordable health care access fueled her interest in public health and health care administration. She still resides in the area and maintains her commitment to bringing more people of color into the health care field in an effort to generate public interest in addressing the evident health inequities that plague historically marginalized communities who have been intentionally left out of solution-driven efforts.

Interested in youth civic engagement, community program development, and health administration, Karen joined Health & Medicine Policy Research Group as a Schweitzer fellow in 2016, when she kickstarted LUCHA, a year-long program that exposed Black and brown youth to different health care career pathways, resulting in all students attending college and a third of the youth invested in the health care sector as a profession.

In 2019, she joined the Board of Directors while working as a health care and education program manager for the West Side United collaborative, a six-hospital effort to decrease the life expectancy gap on the West side of Chicago through social impact investing and programming. Today, her work continues to intersect with Health & Medicine, as she is the program manager for Social Justice Education at the American Medical Association. Karen was an advisor for the inaugural Black Men in White Coats Summit, where hundreds of students learned more about medicine and other public health-related fields. The “why” behind her involvement with Health & Medicine is simple: evidence-based research shows a slight 4% increase in Black physicians in the last 120 years, but by offering opportunities and mentorship to Black youth as a preventative solution, Health & Medicine plays a role in actively challenging that statistic.

Karen holds an MS in Health Systems Management from Rush University, an MPH from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the recipient of various honors for her work, including the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Student Regent’s award, Loyola University’s Set the World on Fire award, the UIC School of Public Health Rising Star award, and the 35 under 35 award from the Chicago Scholars Foundation. On a normal day, you can find her bouldering, strolling through the Garfield Park Conservatory, or sitting on her stoop sipping cafecito in Back of the Yards.