theGrio's 100: Dr. Nadine Gracia, caring for the nation's underserved

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Who is Dr. J. Nadine Gracia?

Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, 39, advocates for those with the least access to health care in her dual roles as deputy assistant secretary for minority health and director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

As the newly appointed director of the Office of Minority Health, she is dedicated to creating health policy and programs to improve the health of underserved communities. She is continuing the work she began as the acting director for the past year, including being instrumental in the outreach of the Affordable Care Act to underserved communities.

A pediatrician by training, Gracia has gone from caring for her individual pediatric patients to caring for the health of the nation’s underserved in just a few years.

She started her career in government in 2008 as one of 14 White House Fellows. From there, she became chief medical officer for HHS where she worked on projects regarding the health of children and teens, the Haiti recovery and the White House Council on Women and Girls.

A first generation Haitian-American, Gracia says she pulls from the strength of her parents who emigrated to the United States and overcame great obstacles. This work ethic and commitment pushed her as she completed a bachelor’s in french from Stanford University, a master of science in clinical epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania and a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

She subsequently completed pediatrics residency and served as chief pediatrics resident at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Yet, with all of those accomplishments, she’s most proud of those she’s had the ability to mentor during her time in medicine and public service.

“It has been a joy and a privilege to work with young doctors and emerging leaders – to watch as they grow, find paths of their own and begin to give back too,” Gracia says.

What’s next for Dr. Gracia?

She has a lot on her plate with the upcoming implementation of the health care law. In October, the health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment, and in January 2014, health plan coverage for consumers and small business will begin in every state.

Gracia and her colleagues are admittedly “rolling up their sleeves,” because, as she says, “2013 will undoubtedly be a year of hard work, but also a year of great opportunity.”