Tomás A. Magaña, FACES for the Future Coalition’s Founding Director Written by the Andy Frias Tomás A. Magaña isn’t just a pediatrician based in Oakland; he is a Latino who has dedicated his life to the holistic care of at-risk youth. He wears many hats: assistant professor, medical director, lead physician, and founder of the FACES for the Future Coalition. FACES is a program that provides support for disadvantaged youth to succeed in college and in health professions. Magaña was born in East Los Angeles, where his mother raised him on her own with support from extended family. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. “It was hard to be that first, because you’re walking through all those milestones without role models, figuring this out on your own,” he recalled. First-generation college students, such as Magaña, tend to have lower graduation rates than other students and lower family incomes. But Magaña defied the statistics thanks to his own resilience and the support he received. “Apart from the incredible support from my mom, there were certain adults, who came into my life at critical moments and who believed in me, saw my potential, and offered me opportunities that were otherwise not available,” he wrote. He went on to graduate with a bachelor of science from Cornell University, a master’s from the University of California, Berkeley, and a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco. A parade of awards for his professional skill and his service work followed those academic successes. FACES seeks to close the achievement gap that makes academic success seemingly impossible by providing academic, wellness, youth leadership, and avenues to explore careers in health professions. Dr. Magaña is proud of the work that the nonprofit has done to address three problems: low academic achievement, poor health outcomes, and a lack of Latinos in health careers. In 2012, the Oakland Unified School District had a 62.6 percent high school graduation rate. However, 100 percent of the students in the FACES program have graduated from high school, and 90 percent of those students follow post-secondary pathways, such as college, certification programs, or employment. “It’s extraordinary,” Magaña said, “we have many alumni, and now these kids are in health professional schools, social work, nursing, medicine, clinical psychology, and several are hired by the places they interned in as high schoolers.” He believes that empowering more Latinos, nationally as well as locally, to obtain healthcare careers, and providing bilingual and bicultural care, will generate a huge impact on the health outcomes for the entire Latino community. Dr. Magaña envisions that those healthcare professionals, in turn, will also become role models, proof that success is possible, making it more attainable for additional underserved youth to achieve their goals.
The 31 HIPGivers recognized in 2015 are collectively altering the landscape for our country. They are pushing the envelope by asking for more – more consideration, more awareness, more compassion, more action, more giving.