A Cross-generational Commitment to Community: Taylor Moreno

Taylor Moreno reflects on her family's legacy rooted in public health

Taylor Moreno, MPH Healthcare Management Graduate
Taylor Moreno, MPH Healthcare Management Graduate

For Taylor Moreno, the connection to her hometown runs deep. "I'm a fifth-generation El Pasoan," she noted. "I'm proud that through the various careers I've had, I have been able to contribute back to El Paso." Moreno is a member of the inaugural cohort of the executive-style MPH in Healthcare Management program at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in El Paso. She and her peers will graduate this May.

"I feel a strong connection to this community and a sense of responsibility to contribute to its health and well-being," Moreno said. "Learning that the MPH program was accessible in El Paso resonated deeply with me because it provided an opportunity to further my education and skills in a field that aligns with my family's values and legacy of service."

Public health has been a focal point for Moreno and her family for decades. Her grandmother, Betty Thurmond, was a highly involved volunteer for local healthcare delivery organizations. "Her dedication to these organizations, which played integral roles in providing healthcare services and advocating for reproductive rights, inspires me to continue her legacy in whatever capacity I can," Moreno said. "Knowing that I could pursue a degree in public health right here in El Paso, where my family has made lasting contributions to the community's well-being, makes the MPH program even more meaningful and relevant to me. It allows me to not only honor my family's history but also to actively participate in addressing the health challenges facing our region today."

Moreno learned of the program through her role as director of development for the El Paso Children's Hospital Foundation and University Medical Center Foundation. The two organizations fund programs that provide direct and ancillary services for patients in the Paso del Norte region, including medical equipment, medications, clothing, and supplies. "I've always wanted to be in the healthcare field," Moreno shared. "I've worked on Capitol Hill and ran a nonprofit locally. Everything I've done has always been related to the health and well-being of El Pasoans."

For Moreno, the program has added a layer of meaningful insight into her career, the organization, and her community. "My job is still very focused on fundraising," she said. "But as discussions come up at the hospital, I have a deeper understanding about why things are happening in a certain way, more so than when I didn't have the knowledge I've gained so far in the program."

As part of her practicum, Moreno has applied this knowledge and her skills to directly impact the lives of patients and their families in the region. Her project focuses on food insecurity among UMC patients and explores ways to help them access sufficient, safe, nutritious food to meet their basic needs. "We often have patients debating whether they're going to put food on the table or go to their chemotherapies," she reflected. "Many times, these are the matriarchs of their family, so they choose to help their family, but if they're not around at the end of the day, who will help them? We see it every day at UMC. So, I'm exploring whether we can help them with food or with overseeing transportation and cost for the chemo so that they can continue with their everyday medical needs." The practice of applying healthcare management and public health concepts to real-world problems like food insecurity is a cornerstone of the MPH in Healthcare Management program.

Every year, UTHealth Houston School of Public Health Fleming Center hosts a student case competition – an event where teams compete to present the best solution to a real-world problem related to healthcare management. This was the first-year students from UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in El Paso were represented at the event, where the team secured a second-place victory.

"The opportunity to represent UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in El Paso was an honor," Moreno said. "Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Ginger Raya, our team felt prepared to compete on a national level, and I am pleased we were able to represent our school well. The most rewarding aspect of the competition was working collaboratively with the others in my cohort to bring forward a well-thought-out proposal that we believe thoroughly addressed the case,"  Moreno said. 

The team's performance at the competition was a culmination of building trust and cohesion as they progressed through the program. "We've become very close," Moreno said. "It's important to have that support while you're going through this." She added that the face-to-face component of the El Paso-based coursework was helpful as she navigated the material. "Having that consistency is nice because then you know who you could reach out to if you need it," Moreno said.

For Moreno, community building – both in the program and outside of it – has been integral to her success. She reflects on her family's past and future as she nears graduation. Her son, Camden, is the most excited to attend her graduation.

"I want Camden to know that embarking on this journey has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but I could not have done it without his patience and support," she said. "The pursuit of knowledge knows no age limit, and I've realized that you're never too old to learn and grow. Throughout this program, I've encountered challenges and obstacles, but I've also discovered strengths and abilities within myself that I never knew existed. Having Camden cheer me on every step of the way made it that much easier. "

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