Hispanic Heritage Series
Part V of VI
Senator Aguilar continues to do it all with aplomb
As she now enters the twilight period of her second and final term in office, Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D., is not taking on her role with complacency.
After watching Donald Trump attempt to enact what the U.S. Supreme Court characterized as a Muslim travel ban; make claims about the weather and the crowd size at his inaugural address; and direct the Homeland Security and Justice departments to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities in his first week in office, the mother of a person with developmental disabilities, physician, Latina and Senator had already had enough.
“I am shocked and saddened by the actions of President Trump his very first week in office,” Aguilar stated. “As a woman, he wants to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own body. As a physician, he is interfering with my relationship with my patients and threatening to take away their health coverage. As a Latina, he is creating barriers for different ethnic/religious communities that may keep them from being with their families, which is clearly discrimination. And as a mother of a person with significant physical and cognitive challenges, he is threatening the safety net for my daughter and the parents and families of thousands of others.”
Several individuals have spoken out against Trump over his first nine months in office, but few have amassed the accolades and achievements of Aguilar who as a professional, politician and person has paved a path many would be so fortunate to follow.
Aguilar grew up in inner city Chicago and was the first in her family to complete college. After earning her medical degree from University of Chicago-Pritzker School of Medicine, Aguilar spent her residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center before moving on to work at Denver’s Westside Family Health Center, where she has been a Primary Care Provider since 1989.
“It’s good to hear stories like that,” said Jennifer Montoya, 22, of Aurora who is on track to graduate from University of Colorado-Colorado Springs in 2018 and plans to pursue a medical degree. “I was also the first in my family to go to college and I didn’t want to let it go to waste. I think when you’re ‘one of the first’ so to speak, there is an added degree of importance and maybe expectation. For some people that may cause a bit of anxiety, but for others it can be a real driving force. Sounds like it was one for her. I know it’s been one for me.”
As a politician, Aguilar has addressed several things that are important to her and her constituents through legislation. In 2014 alone she co-sponsored bills that extended the reach of family medicine residency programs in underserved and rural areas in the state; created a 12-member expert commission to analyze health care in Colorado and make recommendations on how to make it more affordable; and required schools to provide data on their immunization rates as requested by parents.
As a physician, Aguilar is well versed on health care and health care reform, something she holds dearly. Though not entirely enamored with Obamacare, Aguilar has said that Colorado has benefitted from it.
“I can definitively say that without the (Affordable Care Act), Colorado would never have been able to offer Medicaid to childless adults living in poverty,” Aguilar said. “Having worked at the safety net for so many years, I saw the people who did not have ‘government’ health care until their kidneys failed or they developed strokes or cancer.”
Though her time as senator will end in 2018, Aguilar, who has been devoted to community service, her profession and her family for decades, will still have plenty to look forward to.