Brownsville Community Annex dedicated to Blanca Ortiz

Ortiz family web

Dr. Belinda Reininger, Dr. Joe McCormick, with Blanca Ortiz’s family, Juan, Tanya and
John Ortiz at the dedication ceremony.

To honor a longtime colleague and community activist, The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) Brownsville Regional Campus faculty and staff dedicated the community outreach annex at the campus Regional Academic Health Center as a tribute to Blanca Ortiz. The Blanca Ortiz Community Outreach Annex, located on the Brownsville Campus, provides work and meeting space for local public health outreach efforts.

Blanca Ortiz was a community health worker and phlebotomist with the Clinical Research Unit and Community Outreach Programs at UTSPH Brownsville. Ortiz died in March 2011 after a five-year battle with cancer.

Joe McCormick, regional dean at UTSPH Brownsville said, Blanca s vibrant personality and commitment to improving the health of her community were contagious. She will be dearly missed.

The Ortiz Annex houses promotoras or lay health workers who are professionals from the community that have been specifically chosen because of their talents to educate and motivate community members to improve their health. The promotoras are trained in topics such as physical activity, healthy food choices, diabetes, and cancer prevention and control through the Tu Salud Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!) community-wide campaign. The annex also provides a conference room for community meetings and clinic space used by the UTSPH Brownsville Clinical Research Unit for activities that include participant enrollment in the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort. An office is also provided at the annex for local health-oriented, non-profit organizations including Healthy Communities of Brownsville and The Brownsville Farmers Market. These organizations work to improve the health of the community through recycling initiatives and creating access to locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Blanca OrtizOriginally from San Juan, TX, Ortiz was a Brownsville resident for over thirty years. She loved working with people, was dedicated to helping others and inspired many to live healthier lives. Ortiz lived her life joyfully and embodied the ideals of the Tu Salud Si Cuenta! community campaign. She organized many events including the Brownsville s Biggest Loser Challenge. Her attention to detail before each event allowed for the whole team to provide careful attention to the community members in attendance at the event.

Ortiz was recently quoted in a local newspaper saying, So many of us have a fear of facing our vulnerabilities, our mortality. The reality is that we never know the timeframe of our lives. The point is to treasure everyday and all the gifts we have!

Co-workers at UTSPH Brownsville said Ortiz happily took on the role of social director in the Tu Salud Si Cuenta! team. She ensured that special days were celebrated in unique ways, made each person feel welcomed to the team, and built camaraderie among and across work groups.

Lisa Mitchell-Bennett, quality improvement coordinator at UTSPH Brownville, said Ortiz worked tirelessly to promote healthy behaviors during her career and continues to inspire the team s work even after succumbing to cancer.

It is in thanks to her enthusiastic spirit, loyalty and her unconditional commitment to others that the community outreach annex has been dedicated in her name, said Mitchell-Bennett.