“We Are United:” Estamos Unidos Gives Voice to Moffitt’s Hispanic/Latinx Team Members

By Steve Blanchard - October 08, 2021

Career and educational opportunities are all around, but for some members of the Hispanic/Latinx communities, there are barriers that can prevent them from achieving their full potential. Those barriers may be related to language, race or misinformation.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, a new Team Member Engagement Network (TMEN) hopes to find ways to overcome such barriers specifically encountered by the Hispanic/Latinx community. Estamos Unidos, which translates to “We Are United,” invites Moffitt team members to actively work toward inclusion and collaboration among and with its Hispanic/Latinx team members.

“We want to educate, and we want to make programs and opportunities offered here at Moffitt available to team members who are of Latin origin,” said John Castaneda, a research services coordinator at the cancer center who serves as chair of the group. “There are programs that exist to advance career development and educational opportunities that we feel we can make more suitable for our community. We want to put a spotlight on those existing pathways here at Moffitt that may otherwise be overlooked.”

Coming This Fall

Estamos Unidos is still in its infancy and hasn’t officially launched. However, the leadership group plans to make its debut sometime this fall. It’s the hope of Alessandra Santa-Ana, a research services project coordinator and member of the group’s leadership team, that Estamos Unidos will grow rapidly and offer a way for Hispanic/Latinx team members to become more engaged with Moffitt’s leadership.

“It’s about creating a sense of community at Moffitt,” Santa-Ana said. “It can be alienating at times with language barriers. This gives us a group to gather and, while we may not all be from the same country, we have shared customs. We can bond over that and it will make us feel welcomed.”

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"Being able to share and to mentor each other, to have that kind of camaraderie to celebrate our contributions and community is priceless."

- Mariana Bugallo-Muros, Moffitt VP and chief human resources officer

And that welcoming feeling doesn’t only mean current team members will have a way to form bonds and a sense of community, but it will attract new talent as well, according to Mariana Bugallo-Muros, Moffitt vice president and chief human resources officer, who serves as an executive sponsor of the group alongside Henry Reyes, vice president of Partnership Development.

“Being able to share and to mentor each other, to have that kind of camaraderie to celebrate our contributions and community is priceless,” Bugallo-Muros said. “We are of course putting this front and center — that we have a variety of Team Member Engagement Networks — that will not only inspire and empower our current team members, but also help us recruit the best talent out there.”

Everyone is welcome to join Estamos Unidos, Bugallo-Muros added, and any team member who wants to learn more about the Hispanic/Latinx culture is welcome to step in and participate.

“That’s one of many wonderful things about this group and all Team Member Engagement Networks here at Moffitt,” Reyes said. “It gives everyone a chance to support different communities while celebrating what makes us unique.”

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"It gives everyone a chance to support different communities while celebrating what makes us unique."

- Henry Reyes, VP of Partnership Development

Moffitt trials and navigation educator Viviam Sifontes agrees that celebrating a shared culture will help recruit new talent and support the current workforce at the cancer center. She said her unique position leaves her feeling isolated, especially in the age of COVID, and she misses the sense of community she has with others with a similar background.

“To me this is an opportunity to be part of a group that I can relate to and that I can feel comfortable expressing myself with, even with my heavy accent,” Sifontes said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me and for others like me.”

‘We Come In a Spectrum’

Ask the leadership of this new network about their goals, and you will get a variety of answers. Some see it as an opportunity to create social interactions among Hispanic/Latinx team members. Others look forward to providing a voice directly to those who run the daily operations of the cancer center. And still others, like Krystal Victoria who works as a research coordinator, want to make sure the right information is made available to all Moffitt team members, but specifically those who may not speak English fluently.

“I have medical assistants in my clinic, for example, who don’t speak English very well,” Victoria said. “It’s important to have someone to help you if needed. It’s super important.”

And while Spanish may be the language that most Hispanic/Latinx team members are most comfortable speaking, Genesis Blanco, the group’s co-chair, points out that doesn’t make every member of that community identical.

“We come in a spectrum,” Blanco said. “We want to provide education on what it means to be one of us and to provide the access and opportunities to our team members that identify as Hispanic/Latinx. That doesn’t mean you have to fit into a specific category or box, because very few of us do fit in one specific space.”

Team Member Engagement Networks have existed at Moffitt for more than a decade and provide representation for a variety of communities. The groups are developed and coordinated through Moffitt’s Diversity Department and are continuously growing and evolving.

That’s in large part to the support of Dr. B. Lee Green, vice president of Diversity, Public Relations and Strategic Communications.

“Moffitt continues to advance equality and believes that it is an extremely important team member initiative for the support of the cancer center,” Green said. “Estamos Unidos, and all other Team Member Engagement Networks, are vital to providing a voice and resources to every single one of our team members. I credit the hard work of our Diversity team and thank the team members who have volunteered to step up and offer these opportunities to their fellow co-workers.”

With support like that from leadership and a committed group leading Estamos Unidos, Sifontes is optimistic that more members of the Hispanic/Latinx community will join Moffitt’s workforce.

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