November 15, 2012
By Cori Ast
Ana Paula Cupertino, PhD, assistant professor, preventive medicine and public health, is the 2012 recipient of the Carlos F. Cortes Humanitarian of the Year Award. Cupertino will receive the award, presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, in an evening ceremony on Thursday, November 15 at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri.
"The humanitarian award is always a tough one because so many people give back to the community in so many ways," said Carlos Gomez, president, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City.
Gomez said Cupertino deserves the honor, having received not one, but two nominations the award-one from Mary Lou Jaramillo, president and CEO of El Centro, and the other from Adrienne Foster, executive director, Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission.
"Dr. Cupertino was picked because she has worked tirelessly with the Latino community to help with health issues. She has gone above and beyond in trying to educate the community about health, wellness and breast cancer. She has been an advocate, an educator; someone who works tirelessly out there to help the Latino community," Gomez said.
Cupertino was surprised to receive the award.
"To tell the truth, I feel like I haven't done anything yet. I understand that the little we do helps because we are at ground zero, but we still have a very long way to go addressing health of Hispanics in this region," Cupertino said.
Cupertino and her staff at Juntos, Center for Advancing Latino Health are addressing the most pressing health needs of the Latino community throughout the metropolitan area and across Kansas. Their projects include improving breast cancer awareness and screening among Latinas in Wyandotte County, training 34 community health workers in rural Kansas, increasing the number of Latino health workers becoming certified nursing assistants (CNA), developing a pipeline to health careers and addressing smoking cessation in Hispanic communities across the state.
"Since I got here, we have tried to honor and establish relationships. I think this award has to do with the partnerships we have established, but it's just the beginning," she said.
Born and raised in Brazil, Cupertino has spent her life working with communities.
"I was born in a developing country, where there was so much social injustice. Since a very young age, I have been involved to reduce disparities and inspired all my life to do the right thing where it is needed the most," Cupertino says of her upbringing, citing the inspiration from the favelas and the empowerment she saw when Brazil adopted universal health care in the early 90s.
"The work I do is aligned with a better, more just, more socially equal world," she said. "This award is quite humbling and a reminder that we need to work harder and smarter to achieve that world."