Meet one of Milwaukee Magazine's 2021 Betty Award recipients: Carla Echeveste
Carla Echeveste was named one of Milwaukee Magazine’s Betty Awards recipients this year. The Betty Awards are named after the magazine's late publisher, Betty Quadracci. The awards are to honor extraordinary women doing great work in Milwaukee.
Echeveste is working to bridge the gap between communities of color and the healthcare system. She’s worked at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center as a translator and scribe. Later, she joined the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Currently, Echeveste is a research program coordinator for All of Us, a federally funded initiative at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The program is recruiting people from diverse backgrounds to contribute DNA samples and medical records anonymously. This effort is to bridge the gender, racial, and age biomedical data gaps within the medical field.
Echeveste says the program is aiming to establish a database of genetic information, so that patients can have medicine that's more precise and accurate to be more representative of all patients.
"We know that medicine has traditionally taken a very standard approach, one size fits all," Echeveste says. "However, with the advent of precision medicine, the hope is that in the future, we will have medicine that is more tailored and basically personalized for for one's body."
When she initially started with her team, her role was as a clinical research assistant. She says she took patients physical measurements of height, weight, and waist. Then, Echeveste says she transitioned into a more community oriented job. She says that is where she found some challenges.
"I think that as we found through our time, that there's a lot of good work going on in the city, but sometimes we function in silos. Getting to those right individuals, I think, has been one of the challenges," says Echeveste.
COVID-19 was another challenge Echeveste has faced in her work. As programs came to a sudden stop, the new objective became distributing protective personal equipment (PPE) for frontline workers and also translating COVID-19 information into Spanish and Hmong.
Another way Echeveste is bridging the gap between communities of color and healthcare is by serving on the board of directors for Milwaukee Area Health Education Center or MAHEC.
"In the field of medicine, it’s incredibly important to have somebody who not only looks like them but also speaks the same language that they do and I think language is such a powerful way to establish trust," says Echeveste.
She says her role on the bored is a way of inviting minority women and recruiting minority women to be healthcare professional in the future.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's been, not only being a board member for MAHECK, but also recruiting from the Greater Milwaukee area. To make sure that there's that pre-med pipeline and that continuum, professionally," Echeveste says.
After her time at All of Us, Echeveste hopes to establish a scholarship for women who want to pursue the medical field and provide mentorship for women of color.
"I think that by increasing the representation and starting much earlier, is something that can have a lot of great benefit down the road."