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Moving in the right direction

Each year — from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 — we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. As a Latino Specialist for Moda Health subsidiary, ODS Community Dental, Ana Ovalle Barry helps Hispanic and Latino Spanish-speaking members understand how to access the services and care they need to stay healthy. Her job is one way that Moda's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace helps its members achieve better health and wellness.

"Oregon has a large population of Hispanic and Latinx whose primary language is Spanish," she said. "They're already afraid when they go to the dentist or to a medical appointment. As patients, we all tend to forget to write things down when we're at a doctor's visit. Imagine not knowing the language? You're lost. You don't even feel welcome."

Becoming a healthcare interpreter and translator was a career change for Ana. Before moving to Portland, she was a successful veterinarian in Mexico City. When she moved to the Pacific Northwest, she saw how the language barrier was prohibiting non-English speaking Hispanic and Latinos from accessing the care they needed.

"When I lived in Mexico, I didn't know how hard it was for people living here," said Ana, who is a national certified interpreter and translator. "We tend to underestimate how difficult it is for people who don't speak English to access the services we offer. I'm here to make sure our members have access to all available services so they and their families can get the care they need. When we provide meaningful language access services, we are really telling people that we care, and that we want them to have the same level of access to the services and resources they need. It tells them that they are part of the community — that they aren't outsiders."

Ana's position was created to identify and implement policies and procedures to provide culturally appropriate and meaningful services to our Latinx members. She runs the member satisfaction program for ODS Community Dental, evaluating the current interpreting services provided to its members through vendors to make sure they are meeting their expectations. She also helps members connect with dentists and make appointments, and reviews outgoing materials from other departments at Moda to ensure the translations are culturally appropriate.

"I help make sure the materials we create are translated in a way that they appropriately reflect what Latino members are looking for," she said.

Finding her passion

Ana will be the first to admit that the unexpected career change as an interpreter and translator turned out to be one of her life's passions — which is to help others.

"I'm meant to do this," she said. "I bring my heart to work with me every day. I feel like I can help others. Sometimes it can be sad because as an interpreter, I don't always deliver good news. But I've got to be strong. Each day, I have the possibility to bridge crucial gaps between patients and providers. That's very fulfilling."

Ana credits Moda for giving her the opportunity to follow her passion of helping others. While many organizations have similar DEI programs in place, they often don't have the training or funds to implement them into their corporate culture. Moda's different. She said Moda puts their DEI policies into action.

"At Moda, we aren't just creating programs to check a box for our language access services; we're providing meaningful services for people who can use them," she said. "This makes our members feel like a part of the community. It's a lot of work, but it's so rewarding at the same time."

Building a stronger culture

Ana also chairs Moda's Latino employee resource group (ERG). Part of Moda's initiative to build a stronger culture and support a diverse and inclusive work environment, ERGs are voluntary groups led by employees to engage with other employees who share similar concerns and interests. For the Latino ERG, Ana organizes events with local nonprofits like Adelante Mujeres to educate people about Hispanic and Latino cultures. She also creates group activities such as Zumba fitness classes to help colleagues improve their physical and mental health.

"Having ERGs that you can participate in, learn from and interact with means a lot to me," she said. "I love working at Moda because of all the opportunities they offer to employees."

Ana said that Moda not only values, but encourages all employees to recognize, accept and celebrate their differences. To build a stronger culture, she said Moda is taking steps in the right direction.

"Diversity, equality and inclusion is the core of the company, and we're building on it," she said. "What I really like about Moda is their commitment and willingness to continually improve their policies to meet their members' ongoing needs. They're open to listening to anything that can improve how we serve others. With Moda, I feel like things are moving in the right direction."

Celebrating Hispanic and Latino cultures

Honoring Hispanic heritage in the United States was also eye-opening to Ana. She said Mexico and many other South American countries celebrate Independence Day over a one-or two-day period. She was surprised to learn that National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. is a monthlong celebration.

"When I moved here, I learned that it's a full month of celebration. This was different than what I was used to," she said. "One day is not enough to learn about the people, our traditions, and the hardships we've gone through. I like that they take a full month to celebrate our culture and the people who have made contributions to the world."

Moda Health Months: Our employee focus stories

To read more stories, please visit our Moda Health Community page.

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We have exciting news to share. ODS is changing its name to Moda Health.

Moda comes from the latin term "modus" and means "a way". We picked it because that's what we are here to do: help our communities find a way to better health.

Together, we can be more, be better.

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