Gabriel Rincón, DDS, founding executive director of Mixteca Organization, Inc. in Brooklyn, NY, has been honored with a 2011 Community Health Leaders Award by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
For over a decade, Dr. Rincón has pioneered programs to provide education and information about critical health issues that are often regarded as taboo, such as HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. In recent years he has also turned his organization’s focus to Diabetes and Heart Disease, two other health issues that often hit Latino communities particularly hard.
According to Larry McReynolds, executive director of the Lutheran Family Health Centers in Brooklyn, “Gabriel Rincón’s passion for improving health outcomes for the immigrant population of Sunset Park is a tribute to his dedication and leadership at Mixteca. In 2009 alone, Mixteca provided four community health fairs, 20 community health workshops, 305 referrals to free or affordable health care, 332 HIV rapid tests, and 4,000 health screenings. None of that would have been possible without Gabriel Rincón.”
Dr. Rincón personally understands the plight of immigrants and the difficulties they face when it comes to health care and language barriers. He came to the U.S. from Puebla, Mexico, when he was 17 and learned English by reading James Bond novels.
He began his career in the late ’80s when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was also beginning to take its toll. Part of Dr. Rincón’s dental residency included caring for AIDS patients and he was alarmed by the lack of bilingual information available to the Mexican American community. He, personally, developed a culturally sensitive presentation about HIV/AIDS prevention and traveled around to local churches and eateries talking to anyone who would listen. This one-man crusade grew into the Mixteca Organization, which has been providing health and education programs to Latinos in New York City since 2000.
Gabriel Rincón is a wonderful example of what the American Dream symbolizes—both personal success and dedication to making life better for his community and beyond.