Meet the Team: Angel Lopez-Collazo

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Meet the Team is our new blog series introducing some of the amazing professionals at Ascendient – who they are and what makes them tick. This month, meet Angel Lopez-Collazo, a healthcare consultant who joined the team in January 2020.

In your LinkedIn bio, you call yourself a healthcare consultant, of course, but also a “Latinx community advocate” with a “passion for increasing access to care and tackling the challenges of socioeconomic health disparities.” Tell me more about that sense of purpose you bring to your work: Where does it come from and how does it drive you?

That sense of purpose stems from the hardships I’ve experienced and the blessings I was afforded. When I was born in Puerto Rico, I was very sick and, unfortunately, the healthcare system on the island lacked the resources necessary to help me recover. As a result, though my parents spoke little to no English at the time, my family made the decision to leave everyone and everything behind so that I might have a fighting chance.  My parents’ leap of faith allowed me to live experiences unlike any our family or friends on the island had had before, and to me, that is the crux of the problem.

While I am eternally grateful that my family was willing and able to uproot their lives, I also recognize that many families don’t have the funds or support to do the same. In recognizing the vast disparities in socioeconomic status and access to care for US citizens on the mainland compared to US citizens in Puerto Rico, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to build a future where families like mine won’t have to leave their lives and loved ones simply because the island lacked the means to care for them.

You are clearly a purpose-driven individual, so some people might be surprised that you chose healthcare consulting as a career. Talk a little about that – how do you think you can make the world better through your work?

I believe that an equitable high-quality health system is an essential tenet for communities to thrive. As a healthcare consultant with Ascendient, I’m able to help our clients meet the needs of the communities they serve. In addition, our work allows me to be in the rooms where things happen and to offer a diverse perspective as a Latin-American. Though much of our work may not materialize for a number of years, it’s wonderful to know that each project is a sincere effort to continue striving for a better world.

Why did you choose Ascendient, specifically? I’m sure you had plenty of other options.

After returning to North Carolina from a previous job, Daniel Carter, a partner at the firm and my former strategic planning professor at UNC’s School of Public Health, reached out as a mentor and friend to talk about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to get there. I knew I didn’t want to join a big, impersonal firm where I would get siloed in certain roles, so when the opportunity to join Ascendient appeared, it was the perfect chance to work with someone I deeply respect while also being trained and trusted to work on a wide array of projects.

Headshot of Angel Lopez-Collazo, a mission-driven healthcare consultant at Ascendient

You’ve been with the firm almost two years now. What’s the most interesting or rewarding engagement you’ve worked on so far?

I had the privilege of working on a project earlier this year to develop a new state-of-the-art chemical dependency treatment facility to help those suffering from addiction. As the opioid epidemic rages on, particularly in poor rural communities, it is imperative that safe environments that utilize evidence-based treatment methods be available.

This facility, which was recently approved for development, will provide compassionate, evidence-based chemical dependency treatment, and even offer a more eclectic selection of non-medical therapeutic services such as art therapy, equine therapy and more. The purpose of the project is to offer patients and residents a treatment environment that offers privacy and seeks to rehabilitate the person as a whole – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To me, the development of a facility that will help so many individuals and their loved ones to confront and overcome such an arduous and often overlooked challenge is immeasurably rewarding.

Who are you when you’re not at work? What do you love to do outside the office?

I am a proud uncle to a five year old power ranger that has surprisingly good aim with a nerf gun. I am the winner of the long drive contests against my dad but the loser of most of our golf matches. Whenever I have the chance, I also love to make music with family and friends, especially back home in Puerto Rico.

Exit question: If you could solve one issue in the US healthcare system that would have the greatest impact, what would that be?

The cost. The fact that people can still go bankrupt in the US because of uncontrollable health circumstances such as cancer or heart disease is unacceptable. A family grieving the loss of a loved one that needed intensive care should not be forced to take on tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt. Too many people opt not to go to the doctor regularly due to costs and in turn find themselves in an emergency room paying significantly more.

As one of the richest countries in the world, the cost of healthcare should not be a factor when making life or death decisions. I believe that controlling the costs of healthcare and eliminating financial barriers to care will have the most meaningful impact on the US healthcare system.

 

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