How a Professional ‘Abuela’ Spawned a Career in Health Promotion
Armida Flores was a professional abuela—babysitting her granddaughters, volunteering at their schools, etc.—until they moved to California a few years ago.
Then Flores wasn’t sure what to do with her newfound spare time.
So the Mexico native, who was 30 years removed from school, didn’t know much English and had no career training, decided to enroll in bilingual nursing classes at Palo Alto College in San Antonio and simultaneously earned her GED in Spanish in 2008.
She also took beginner and advanced English to polish her language skills, and in May 2012 earned an associate’s degree in social work, psychology and Spanish.
“The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was to accept that I am not too old to start a new process in my life,” said Flores. “Now that I have overcome this obstacle, I continue working to improve my language and computer skills.”
She’s kick-started her career as a health educator at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
She serves as a patient navigator to help cancer survivors navigate the complex health care system, get emotional support, and access needed care services.
She also is a promotora—a community health worker for Latinos—on an IHPR-LIVESTRONG partnership to identify Latino cancer patients and refer them to LIVESTRONG’s cancer survivor services.
LIVESTRONG recently lauded Flores for having the highest number of referrals, and invited her to a national conference in July 2012.
Flores also coordinates workshops, member recruitment and record-keeping for the San Antonio Community Health Association, and she co-founded the Cuenta Conmigo cancer support group for Spanish speakers.
“Armida is the perfect bridge between our Latino community and our health care providers/system,” said IHPR researcher Sandra San Miguel de Majors. “Latino cancer survivors are able to relate to her because she’s from their own community, she speaks their same language and she understands their culture and barriers.
“I admire her positive attitude and willingness to help everyone. She’s got a quiet approach, but makes a very strong impact in our community.”
Flores hopes to eventually earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling.
“My motivations to accomplish my goals are my family, myself, and my desire to learn how to be able to help people in my community,” she said.
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