May 18, 2022
“Be a real advocate. Don’t just use this to put on your resume; it’s something to act on, and let’s figure out how we make health care available to everyone.”
Nora de Hoyos Comstock, Ph.D., is an entrepreneur, business leader, and pioneer in utilizing social media to build a community for Latinas. Nora believes that education, which translates into hope and opportunity, is the single most important factor that can transform lives.
Nora is the national/international founder of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, and served as organization’s volunteer (unpaid) President/CEO since its founding. She has built the organization to over 20,000 women in about 100 cities, 28 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. She has since retired but remains on the board and still performs work for the organization.
Her leadership in the Austin community includes chair and member of the Capital Area Workforce Development Board (now Workforce Solutions). Additionally, she has worked with the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Economic Growth Business Incubator, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and the Austin Museum of Art, to name a few. She currently serves on the board of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy (Cambridge, MA) and Latino Literacy Now (Los Angeles, CA). Comstock was elected to the Austin Community College Board of Trustees in November 2016 for a six-year term.
Comstock served as a Community Health Champion with the 2019 cohort.
Q: What made you want to become a Community Health Champion?
A: I was interested in having a better understanding of people who do not have health insurance and who do not have means to support being healthy, what our community was doing for these individuals. I knew we had created a health district and I wanted to better understand what that was and how to participate and share that information in the community, and encourage others to do so as well.
Q: How was the experience of being a Community Health Champion compared to your expectations?
A: What I have learned across the years is you make it yours. Whatever it is, wherever you go, you participate in whatever, if the basic program is there, then you can meld it to your needs. You can participate in ways that allow you to do what you need to do. I went in with more expectations than the program could possibly achieve, and that’s not a negative by any means, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I also realized that in order for me to meet my goals, I needed to be more involved, find the ways that what I needed to do could be accomplished in the system and learning where and how things happen. The program allowed me to do that.
It also allowed me to create an amazing group of friends and colleagues who share the same passions. Think of it as a launching point. It’s not going to be the be-all and end-all of what your expectations are, but it’s certainly a beginning and it lays the groundwork for you to take what you want to accomplish – your goals, your mission, your passion – and gives you a path to get there. But you have to figure out how to make that happen.
Q: Was there anything interesting or surprising about your experience?
A: I loved the idea of the enterprise, because to me, the enterprise is a huge collaboration and that’s what I think Central Health has brought to the table, that allow us to achieve some of our goals, or at least, move in that direction. Because I didn’t know what Central Health was, learning about the enterprise and about the pieces and how they’ve been brought together really allowed me to think bigger about how we can, as a community, bring our resources to bear to solve these problems. The fact that Central Health understands we can’t do it alone and that partners are critical.
Q: What did you gain personally from your experience?
A: First of all, amazing people. Not only the staff at Central Health, who are amazing and mission-driven and passion-driven to accomplish the work they do, but also the wonderful people that I met. We had a common goal; we all approached it from different directions based on what their experience was, and therefore, that’s what drove their passion. Every single one of them was so amazing, so passionate, so committed and so wonderful and embracing, I felt a camaraderie with them and a connection. Now knowing how Central Health works, it allows me to be more focused on how I can use my energy, my passion, my commitment in interactions with the community to achieve some of our mutual goals.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming a Community Health Champion?
A: Think about what you want out of it. I’d be real clear about what you want out of it. I knew I just wanted to be involved, and it doesn’t to be a whole lot more than that. You need to be proactive to make sure you get what you want. Whatever it is that is driving your interest, you need to be pretty focused about it. Allow the big picture to emerge, but at the same time, you need to figure out what you are interested in doing and how you can achieve it. The institution, the group – it needs us. This is a two-way street. It’s not just about you. It’s also about the institution, the enterprise and how it can garner our energy, our mission and our passion to drive this forward.
Q: How did being a Community Health Champion influence your work for healthcare equity?
A: I take it every place with me. Central Health comes out of my mouth I can’t tell you how many times a day because I make sure wherever possible to insert knowledge, experience, questions, connection – all of it. It’s an integral part of my day every day. I just think it’s that important.
Be a real advocate. Don’t just use this to put on your resume; it’s something to act on, and let’s figure out how we make health care available to everyone.
Community Health Champions is an annual Central Health program that brings together diverse community members from across Travis County to learn about, discuss, and collaborate on our work to improve the health of Central Texas.
Through a five-month workshop series, participants learn about the healthcare system for Travis County residents with low income and how Central Health and its partners come together to address health disparities.
Health Champions are challenged to think outside of their individual realities to become advocates for healthcare access and equity in their own communities.