BOSTON - Julio Silva, an administrative assistant in thoracic surgery and interventional pulmonology and Maria Clara De Paolis Kaluza, a research assistant in the Center for Advanced Orthopedic Studies, have been honored with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's third annual Latino Achievement award.
Silva and De Paolis were selected by BIDMC's Employee Involvement Committee for their significant contributions to advance exceptional care for the Latino community.
"The thing that I've always enjoyed about this institution in particular, is that you push yourselves beyond what anybody asks you to do," said keynote speaker state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez whose district includes Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and parts of Brookline.
Sanchez, the House chairman of the legislative Committee on Public Health, grew up in the Mission Main housing development in nearby in Mission Hill. He shared fond memories of delivering newspapers in the Longwood Medical Area while witnessing the then-Beth Israel and New England Deaconess hospitals grow, evolve, and ultimately merge with a common mission of serving a diverse population without discrimination.
"It's intimidating coming from another country or another culture," said Sanchez. "I congratulate Clara and Julio. You are on the front lines and you are excellent examples of why this institution is a great institution locally and globally."
Silva, whose parents were both born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Lawrence, MA where as a child he often served as interpreter for his Spanish-speaking mother. "Being a Latino child, we don't apply for it, but it's part of the growing up," he said. As an adult, Silva has a new found appreciation of his bilingual roots. Spanish has become an invaluable tool in helping many of the patients he serves feel more at ease while facing difficult health concerns.
"He treats every patient with dignity and respect," said Robin Volante, Director of Thoracic Surgery and Interventional Pulmonology. "Not a month goes by that I don't receive a letter or a call from Latino patients telling me how kind and caring he is."
Volante recalled one letter she received that read, "Julio spent so much extra time and patience with my elderly mom when booking her appointment and this extra caring actually reduced her anxiety of coming into the hospital."
Volante says patients who have only spoken with Silva over the phone, often ask to meet him in person when they arrive at the medical center. "That action alone speaks volumes about the compassionate service and dedication Julio displays to all," she said.
De Paolis was born in Argentina and moved with her family to California when she was eight years old. Growing up in Los Angeles surrounded by a vibrant Hispanic community, De Paolis never felt out of step with her cultural heritage, but that changed when she moved east to study electrical engineering at Boston University.
"It was very evident when I started that it wasn't common to be a minority and woman in a technical field," she said. That's when she began working with middle and high school students, hoping to inspire them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
"Clara is just beginning her professional career, but she already serves as a mentor and a driving force to encourage and facilitate the involvement of under-represented minorities in science and technology fields," said Mary Bouxsein, PhD, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and member of the Center for Advanced Orthopedic Studies.
As an undergraduate, De Paolis worked as a tutor for Upward Bound, a college preparatory program for potential first-generation college and low-income Boston public high school students. As president of Boston University's student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), she helped establish and lead an after school science club at a Roxbury charter high school. And after graduating from Boston University, she volunteered as a teacher with Citizen Schools, a non-profit organization that partners with middle schools across the country to expand the learning day for low-income children.
"I hope to be a role model as a woman and a minority in engineering," said De Paolis. "I would love it if all students could know what their options are, and know that they can pursue science if they want to."
De Paolis continues her commitment to community as a member the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers' Outreach Committee where she is the Director of University Relations. In that position she works closely with students from nine New England universities to prepare them to be competitive, successful students and young professionals.
"A deeply held value at BIDMC is our commitment to inclusion and respect with a proud tradition of honoring achievement," said Albert Galaburda, MD, Chief of Cognitive Neurology. "I am humbled and proud to be associated with these talented individuals whose commitment to advancing compassionate, quality care for the Latino Community is celebrated today."
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently
ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit