For nearly 40 years, Elizabeth Bustos has waged an anonymous campaign to ensure that everyone receives quality health care in San Diego, regardless of their skin color or Zip Code.
That anonymity ended this spring when KPBS named her its first Community Hero of 2017 for her tireless work to promote health and justice for all.
She’s our Director of Community Engagement and directs our Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project, which works with African American faith organizations to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The station raised awareness of her life-long contributions through radio and TV spots, and hosted a forum at Jacobs Center on April 3 featuring a distinguished panel of experts.
The greater community learned about a crisis centuries in the making, the injustice of health care, and how San Diego organizations and communities are working together to prevent and treat chronic illness.
“Stop the madness of heart disease,” she says. “It has to stop here.”
She’s the first one to tell you that this work is exhausting, and at times dispiriting and isolating. She’s also the first one to tell you how enriching and rewarding it is.
“There is so much treasure here,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be able to share in it.”
She’s “written the book” on how to engage community residents, regardless of their racial or ethnic background. It all begins with one individual asking for permission to enter a community. Next there is a lot of listening and learning, she says, never judging, and then getting down to working together.
In the year 2017, that’s how our Community Hero rolls.