Dr. Rosa M. Gil is the founder, President and CEO of Comunilife, Inc., a health and human services agency founded in 1989 to improve the quality of life for children, adolescents, adults, seniors and families living with mental illness, HIV/AIDS or other chronic illnesses. Comunilife helps them achieve self-sufficiency in the community through safe and affordable housing, behavioral health and social services. Comunilife has been recognized for developing Community-Defined Best Practices for Latinos.
She has had a distinguished career in the fields of health, mental health, social services and higher education. Dr. Gil served as Health Policy Advisor to Mayor Giuliani and Health Administrator of New York City. She is the former Chairperson of the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation. In addition she has held positions as Executive Director of Woodhull Medical Center and Metropolitan Hospital; Senior Vice President of Generation and Northern Manhattan Health Network; Senior Vice President Mental Hygiene Services at the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation; Executive Deputy Commissioner for Families and Children Services at the NYC Human Resources Administration. Dr. Gil is the former University Dean for Health Sciences at the City University of New York.
Some of her accomplishments include prevention and wellness initiatives; expansion of primary care; implementation of Medicaid managed care in New York City; expansion of affordable housing for seniors, persons living with HIV/AIDS and mental illness; created the first ever Medical Respite Program in New York City; increased access to health insurance; implemented a nationally recognized program for suicide prevention among Latina adolescents and development of the Multicultural Relational Approach for Diverse Populations™
Dr. Gil is the Chairperson of the Community Advisory Board of New York University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and serves as Commissioner on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s Commission on Women Issues. She is a member of President Carter Center Mental Health Task Force and the Board of Trustees of EmblemHealth, Inc. Dr. Gil has served on the New York State Commission of Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (The Berger Commission); New York State Governor’s Adult Home and the Mentally Ill Persons Task Force; Planning Board of the Surgeon General Report on Mental Health; National Advisory Council to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Minority Women Panel of Health Experts of the U.S. Public Health Services. She is one of the founders of the Urban Institute for Behavioral Health of New York City, Latino Commission on AIDS, the Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals and 100 Hispanic Women.
Dr. Gil has published numerous articles on mental health, ethnicity, and child welfare and gender issues. She is the co-author of the “Maria Paradox,” the first authoritative book on self-esteem and Hispanic women.
1. Share the greatest impact of your childhood.
The Cuban revolution truly impacted my childhood.
2. Define your experience growing up?
I grew up in an environment with an emphasis on hard work and having a sound education. Another value we had growing up was a commitment to help others in need.
3. Tell us some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome.
As a Cuban refugee, I came to this country when I was 20 years old. I had to overcome the challenges of a new environment, such as language and culture. My main challenge was to know how to overcome these changes in my new environment. When I grew up with strong work values, it helped me navigate my way in a new country.
4. What would you say was the greatest positive influence on your career?
The changes that occurred in the US in the 1960s such as the improvements with respect to the African-American community as well as conditions for women. This inspired me to move forward with my own career.
5. As an honoree, what do you hope that being a trendsetter will inspire you to accomplish?
To be a role model to others and to improve the lives of Latinos in the US in terms of better education, economic and social conditions. Also, to empower US Latinos to make this country a better place for them.