The Fidelis Care Blog

Women’s History Month: Rising Above Life’s Challenges
3/18/2024 • Posted by Rosanna Rojas, Fidelis Care Community Relations Manager in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, In The Community

Women's History Month

Resiliency defines my life. Throughout the years, I have drawn inspiration from phenomenal women who have modeled this quality for me and countless others.

While in college, I had the privilege of meeting the acclaimed poet, Maya Angelou, and hearing her speak about overcoming enormous obstacles to create a life of which she was proud. Ms. Angelou survived segregation, racism, sexual abuse, and her own insecurities to inspire others to be their best selves. She used her talents and grit to become a civil rights activist and an accomplished author, professor, poet, director, and composer. Her message was one of love, hope, and courage. Ms. Angelou showed me how every person can rise from tragedy and hardship to live a meaningful life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Debbie Salas-López, Senior Vice President of Community and Population Health at Northwell Health, and author of the memoir, “The Girl from The Bronx: A True Story of Struggle, Resiliency and Courage.” She is also a professor of medicine at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University. Dr. Salas-López grew up in a poor Puerto Rican immigrant family during a time of civil and social unrest. She overcame systemic prejudice and personal hardships to become a nationally recognized speaker and educator in the areas of medicine, healthcare disparities, and the impact of social and economic factors on health. In her memoir, Dr. Salas-López shares how she found personal fulfillment due in part to the perspective that “having faced tough times in the past gives us a frame of reference for how we can succeed in the future.”

Similar to these incredible women, I have also dealt with adversity in my personal life.  Shortly after arriving in the United States, my father suffered an act of violence that almost took his life, caused his health to deteriorate, and ultimately cost him his job. To make ends meet, my dad and I would sell Italian ice in the Bronx. When we could not keep up with monthly rent payments, local agencies helped my family secure an apartment in a New York City Housing Authority complex in Spanish Harlem. My family and I often benefited from local food pantries and back-to-school supplies distributions that helped children in our community. Because my basic needs were met, I went on to excel in school. I graduated valedictorian in middle school, was accepted into several specialized programs in high school, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I am certain that without the help my family received when I was younger, my life trajectory would have been very different.

In hindsight, my struggles prepared me for a greater destination. First, they taught me the importance of treating everyone with kindness and respect because often people are fighting battles that we know nothing about. Second, I have grown confident in knowing that when I extend my best efforts, I can accomplish almost anything. Most importantly, my experiences directed me to a career of service in which I have found a sense of purpose and fulfillment. In my current position on Fidelis Care’s Community Relations team, I work to develop strategic relationships with providers and community-based organizations. I take this responsibility both seriously and personally because I know the work that we do impacts families and communities just like my own.

In the words of the great Maya Angelou, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refused to be diminished by it.” Maya Angelou’s example and that of Dr. Salas-López mirror my own resilience and strength in the face of adversity and serve as a reminder to us all to see challenges as opportunities for growth. In celebration of Women’s History Month, I encourage anyone facing adversity to find inspiration in the women who came before us and the ones among us now who have used hardship to rise above life’s challenges with dignity and grace.

Rosanna Rojas, Fidelis Care Community Relations Manager, leads a team that develops strategic relationships and initiatives to address social determinants of health impacting the communities it serves. She holds a bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, a master’s degree in public administration from John Jay College, and is a Fellow of the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative.




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