BOSTON, MA, September 23, 2022—Fenway Health announces today that Juan Jaime de Zengotita, M.D. will join the organization as our new Medical Director. He will assume the role on November 21.
De Zengotita is an accomplished board-certified primary care internist who brings over 20 years of experience in patient-centered medical home initiatives, values-based care, and creating and implementing systems to reduce disparities in health based on race, ethnicity, and sexual and gender identity. Most recently, he served as Medical Director of Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center and as Regional Medical Director at the Brigham and Women’s Primary Care Center of Excellence.
“Dr. de Zengotita is a highly accomplished clinician and health care leader who builds community health initiatives centered around racial, sexual, and gender health equity,” said Fenway Health Chief Operating Officer Jordina Shanks. “Throughout his career, he has focused on making primary care modern, efficient, equitable, and patient-centered. His professional background, knowledge, and experience make him uniquely suited to drive meaningful and measurable change at Fenway Health as we strive to build a practice of team-based high-quality care that is accessible to everyone who needs our services.”
“Dr. de Zengotita embodies our aspirations for the future of our organization,” remarked Fenway Health Chief Executive Officer Ellen LaPointe. “He brings an extraordinary blend of medical and community health expertise and lived experience and perspective to our team, and we are very fortunate that he will be joining us.”
De Zengotita has long made health equity a primary focus of the programs he oversees as well as his clinical practice. At the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center and with partners at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mass General Brigham, de Zengotita worked alongside innovative leaders who focused on improving systems, policies, and procedures to reduce racial and other forms of bias in healthcare. He has served on numerous committees related to racial justice and sexual and gender identity equity in health care at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Primary Care Center of Excellence, and Mass General Brigham. He has led the implementation of two Academic Innovation Collaboratives at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center in partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. He also led the implementation of the electronic health records management system, Epic, at the health center and ensured that questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity were embedded in the system.
“Finding ways to ensure that quality healthcare is accessible to everyone who needs it is my passion. When you understand racism and other forms of oppression are rooted in systems and not solely the personal biases of individuals, you realize the framework for reform must shift from, ‘What are our patients doing that needs to be changed?’ to ‘What has been done to our patients that we need to help overcome?,’” said de Zengotita. “I’m incredibly excited to join Fenway Health where we will build and improve systems to ensure that people of all races, cultures, and sexual and gender identities receive the health care they need in ways that make them feel safe, welcomed, and cared for.”
As a third-generation primary care physician, de Zengotita has watched primary care evolve from a finely-honed craft practiced by individuals like his grandfather, a town doctor in Puerto Rico who occasionally accepted plantains as payment for services, to an effort that requires a team working tightly together with clinicians, nurses, medical assistants, care managers, and many others contributing along with stakeholders like payors and health care systems.
Community health centers model this system every day, and de Zengotita is thrilled to join Fenway Health in continuing this work. Like his grandfather and father before him, creating “long-term relationships with patients and loved ones and helping them manage their health through the course of their lives” appeals to de Zengotita’s heart. But building systems that care for whole communities and support patients in ways unimaginable to his grandfather appeals to de Zengotita’s intellect.
“There is so much that goes into keeping one person healthy. I can’t see people in clinic and also follow up to make sure they get a mammogram, get their labs done, and call the three people who could not make it to their appointments,” said de Zengotita. “The team we create to build community health has everyone on the care team doing what they signed up to do and what they’re uniquely suited for. So, for example, clinicians see patients, population health people ensure that mammograms get done, and medical assistants can make the calls not just to find out why someone didn’t show up for their appointment but to also follow up with patients to make sure they understood all the information conveyed during the visit.”
But all of the team-based technical expertise in the world will not keep a person healthy if members of the team do not also understand that “a person’s health is more related to where they live and who they are than what they do,” de Zengotita said. “Every member of the team must be trained in understanding the barriers people face in achieving their goals for health as well as how to ensure patients have access to the resources they need to succeed.”
Healthcare institutions, meanwhile, must support this clinical work by engaging deeply with the community to dismantle racism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression while also working to create equitable and healthy environments in which everyone can thrive, de Zengotita added.
De Zengotita’s professional identity and passion for equity started in his college days and were influenced by his experiences as a gay man who came out while serving in the U.S. Navy during the 1990s when service members were routinely discharged for being gay.
“As a medical officer, I had plenty of privilege and I was able to come out to my friends and still live my life in a way that was safe,” de Zengotita said. “I know not everybody could do that. When I left, I vowed to be honest and up front about who I was going forward. It took time to liberate myself, but I had learned how important it is to live authentically as who you are. I committed that to myself and to help make that a reality for all.”
Today, de Zengotita models his work on the examples set by his grandfather and his father, a pediatrician in New York City who also ministered to men incarcerated at Rikers Island.
“It’s not enough to just generally be a good person and have good intentions,” de Zengotita said. “You also have to take action. That’s what I strive for in my life, to do good. Whatever I do has to have an impact. That’s what I’m going to bring to Fenway Health.”