What is a Hispanic Serving Institution? A Hispanic Sering Institution (HSI) is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as an institution of higher education that has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25% Hispanic.

As we round out Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), we’re shining a light on the impact of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) on our colleagues and communities. HSIs first began as a grassroots movement in the 1980s due to the shifts in U.S. demography and the increase in Hispanic enrollment in higher education. HSIs are at the forefront of efforts to increase educational access and success for the nation’s Hispanic population and represent just 16% of all higher education institutions.

HCA Healthcare recognizes the undeniable impact of HSIs in developing future healthcare leaders. As part of our three-year $10 million commitment to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and HSIs to help build a diverse healthcare pipeline, we have committed $1.5M to Florida International University and $750,000 to The University of Texas at El Paso.

Read the first-hand accounts from HCA Healthcare colleagues on the impact HSIs have had on their lives and careers.

Side by side images of Michelle Foxx as a college graduate and her professional headshot.
Michelle Foxx, Director, Clinical Informatics, HCA Houston Healthcare West

Hispanic Heritage: Mexican American
Alma Mater: The University of Texas El Paso

As a child, I was diagnosed with leukemia and the compassionate care that I received from my caregivers inspired me to pursue a career in nursing. I am so grateful I chose to complete my bachelor and master degrees at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

The genuine compassion my UTEP educators had in seeing their students succeed both academically and professionally has contributed to my success as a nurse and leader within HCA Healthcare. Attending UTEP allowed me to experience college with students who had similar cultural values and backgrounds — giving me the ability to build lasting career relationships that I still value today.

My current role in informatics was something that gained my interest when I became a nurse. I had the opportunity to assist in the rollout of computerized provider order entry (CPOE) at HCA Houston Healthcare West in Houston, Texas, and quickly realized it was a career path that I could not pass up. Serving as the director of clinical informatics gives me the ability to promote quality, safety and evidence-based practices from a leadership role.

“I am proud to be a Hispanic leader and to be able to pave the way for other Hispanic healthcare professionals by instilling true change in the way patients are cared for.”

Michelle Foxx, director, Clinical Informatics, HCA Houston Healthcare West
Side by side images of Hector Huerta as a college graduate and her professional headshot.
Hector Huerta, Technical Analyst II, Riverside Community Hospital

Hispanic heritage: Mexican-American
Alma Mater: Chabot College and the University of California at Riverside

Throughout my academic career, I had the unique opportunity to graduate from two Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) – Chabot College in Hayward, California, and the University of California, Riverside.

My experiences at both HSIs were amazing. Being surrounded by a diverse community that celebrates the Hispanic culture, while fostering academic growth, shaped a nurturing atmosphere. I benefited from specialized support services and programs that were tailored to my unique needs. Overall, my time at both universities not only provided a quality education but also empowered me to embrace my heritage and contribute positively to both schools and communities.

After college, I started working in logistics management, but my heart was always in the information technology field. Last year, I had the opportunity to join HCA Healthcare as a tech analyst and it has been phenomenal. I get to work with advanced technology every day and serve in a field that helps people.

Working in healthcare has a deep significance for me; it’s a testament to the progress we’ve made as a community by breaking barriers in a vital sector. My role allows me to contribute to improving healthcare systems and technologies, and ensure better patient outcomes.

“As a Latino, I bring a unique perspective, cultural sensitivity and a commitment to addressing healthcare disparities in underserved communities. It’s an honor to be part of a diverse workforce here at Riverside Community Hospital that collectively strives to make a positive impact on people’s lives, transcending boundaries and shaping the future of healthcare.”

Hector Huerta, Technical Analyst II, Riverside Community Hospital

Angela Buitrago, Project Manager Director, East Florida Division

Side by side images of Angela as a college graduate and her professional headshot.
Angela Buitrago, Project Manager Director, East Florida Division

Hispanic Heritage: Colombian
Alma Mater: Florida International University

I always say that Florida International University (FIU) ‘picked’ me. It was the only affordable university in Miami I could attend locally while working to be able to cover my living expenses. FIU is a well-recognized higher institution and its academic student body represents the melting pot that Miami is with a high-volume Hispanic population.

Initially, I was a bit hesitant if I could succeed at FIU since I had finished my high school studies in Colombia and I wasn’t sure if my credits would carry over. I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in honors classes after admissions exams.

Once I started attending school, I saw that many of my classmates had similar upbringings and shared common experiences. FIU even offered specific classes related to Latin America and the Caribbean, which helps the development of those countries by supporting research locally or preparing students to return to their countries of origin to create new businesses and additional job opportunities. FIU also serves international students from other parts of the world, which allowed me to be exposed to several different cultures. I was fortunate to meet people who became lifetime friends.

Being an FIU student prepared me to achieve and succeed in my professional career.

“I’m very proud of my ethnic background and I feel honored to be working in healthcare, specifically at HCA Healthcare. It has allowed me to support my local community and pave the way for younger Hispanic generations to enter the healthcare field.”

Angela Buitrago, Project Manager Director, East Florida Division

Gabriel Perez, Vice President, Software Development, HCA Healthcare

Headshot of Gabriel Perez
Gabriel Perez, Vice President, Software Development, HCA Healthcare

Hispanic Heritage: Puerto Rican
Alma Mater: Florida International University

Growing up in Puerto Rico, my dad would put a computer in front of me and let me play. At first, it was games, then simple programs and eventually, building my own computer. I ultimately fell in love with programming. My mom was able to save up and buy me my first computer with access to the internet.

In high school, I had a mentor who invited me to an event that exposed me to computer science as a career path. I realized it was exactly what I wanted to do, but at the time, the local university programs did not have a robust program. After researching other universities with strong computer science programs, I chose Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida. At 18 years old, I moved to the United States.

Being at FIU felt like an extension of family. Even though I was surrounded by a mix of cultures, there was a sense of familiarity. It felt like an extension of home with different flavors — a salsa of different cultures.

At first, it was challenging because there was a difference between the English I learned as a secondary language versus the English that is expected while attending college. Fortunately, FIU offered academic programs, such as English as a Second Language (ESL), to help me navigate my new learning environment. It was a great experience that allowed me to have an easier adaptation to a whole new culture.

It was during my senior year of college that I started working as a technical analyst at an HCA Florida Healthcare facility.

“One day, I noticed a sign in the hallway that said, ‘If you’re not directly helping a patient, you’re helping someone who is.’ That moment helped me see the connection between the work I was doing each day and how it impacts our patients. I realized I didn’t need to work at a technology company to use my skills – I could use them to improve patient care. That’s why 20 years later, I’m still here.”

Gabriel Perez, Vice President, Software Development, HCA Healthcare

Through my story, I want future generations to know they can use their skills towards a higher purpose than what they originally imagined. I believe it is my duty to always give back and make it easier for the next generation of leaders to start ahead.

Gabriel Perez and a student at FIU
On Oct. 4, 2023, FIU students attended the HCA Healthcare Showcase and heard from leaders – like Gabriel Perez – about their unique career journeys within healthcare in areas ranging from allied health to software development. As part of the showcase, students were able to connect with our colleagues about current career opportunities across the country in healthcare delivery, business and technology.

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