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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stresses the importance of healthcare for all at a conference at Johns Hopkins

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Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has some advice for healthcare workers and health policymakers: If you’re going to do it, do it with enthusiasm.

There is a word in Spanish—ganas. If you look it up in the dictionary, it means “desire” in English. But for me, it means courage, courage and game rolled into one,” Becerra said Thursday during a Johns Hopkins Health Policy Forum virtual conversation with the Dean of the School of Nursing, Sarah Szanton. And I learned that from my parents, they told me hazlo con ganas— do it with verve, do it with the spirit you really want to apply to it. And if you do things with ganas, it’s contagious. People will watch this and not only reward you for it, but you will bring people with you.”

Becerra said the experiences of her working-class parents helped shape her career dedicated to ensuring Americans have access to affordable health care.

“I saw how hard my parents worked and how little access they had to the things that most of us now take for granted,” Becerra said of her Mexican-born, immigrant mother. in the United States after marrying her father, a day laborer turned construction worker. And I always knew that if I could, I would try to do anything for people who are like my parents.

Becerra has built a career that lives up to this ideal. After becoming the first in his family to receive a bachelor’s degree, he earned his law degree. He started as a lawyer representing people with mental health issues and then worked for more than two decades in the United States House of Representatives, where he worked tirelessly on legislation that made health care more affordable. and guaranteed patient safety. He later served as California’s attorney general before becoming the first Latino to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Szanton’s conversation with Becerra was wide-ranging, from access to healthcare and mental health services, to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He urged Americans to get an updated bivalent booster shot.

“With COVID, no one is safe until everyone is safe,” Becerra said. “We’ve seen some 40 million Americans adopt the new bivalent vaccine, which is the best to protect against the latest strains of omicron…We’re trying to encourage people to get vaccinated, to take precautions like masking if necessary, and doing everything we already know to save lives.

Becerra is the seventh expert to participate in the Health Policy Forum Series, which was launched in fall 2020 to highlight the university’s engagement with key leaders on issues of health and care policy. health. Featured Previous Events Antoine Faucidirector of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (October 2020); Rochelle P. Walenskydirector of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 2021); Robert M. DavisCEO and Chairman of Merck (October 2021); Chiquita Brooks-LaSureTrustee of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (January 2022); Atul Gawande, deputy administrator of the Bureau for Global Health of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID; and Donna Shalalaformer HHS Secretary and Congressman (June 2022)

The Health Policy Forum Series is co-hosted by the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Carey Business School, and Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing with Johns Hopkins Medicine.