PHOTO: Roque Anthony F. Velasco

Roque Anthony F. Velasco

Roque Anthony F. Velasco, MS, APRN, AGPCNP-BC, CNS, CMSRN, ACRN, AAHIVS, is the recipient of the NEF/Johnson & Johnson 2023 Health Equity Scholarship. He is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus College of Nursing. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing from San Diego State University. After obtaining his graduate degree, he began practicing as a nurse practitioner at DAP Health, a federally qualified health center that provides care to underserved communities in the Coachella Valley, California.

Working with historically minoritized communities, he recognized the need for culturally-informed interventions in improving healthcare access. Collaborating with an interdisciplinary team, he led the creation of DAP Health’s transgender and gender diverse (TGD) health program. Within one year of initiating the program, the number of actively engaged TGD patients increased by more than 400%. His initiatives also improved organizational policies, training, and educational programs that enhanced gender-affirming care delivery at DAP Health. He also serves as a clinical investigator for multiple clinical trials, including studies on novel medication to treat HIV. He is conducting a pilot study exploring stigma and primary care access among TGD older adults in the Coachella Valley. His clinical and research experiences and desire to develop patient-centered interventions to improve healthcare access and delivery for TGD people inspired him to pursue a Ph.D. in nursing.

His long-term goal is to build a research program to explore the interrelationship between the experience of multilevel stigma and primary care access on the health and health-related experiences of TGD older adults. His preliminary work on this topic, including multiple articles published in peer-reviewed journals, underlines how TGD older adults continue to be underrepresented in nursing research. His findings also underscore the need to address the subtle variances in health-related experiences of TGD communities. His research goal is to address these gaps by exploring primary care access among TGD older adults, assessing stigma-related barriers to primary care at various socio-ecological levels, understanding the relationship between social determinants of health and health inequities, and partnering with TGD communities in developing culturally-informed and evidence-based strategies to improve primary care access and delivery.

His unique position as a clinician-scientist also allows him to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice. At the clinical level, his research plays an essential role in how he provides patient-centered care. Similarly, working as a nurse practitioner providing care to TGD people informs his research. Being a clinician-scientist also gives him a unique perspective in his leadership role as a community advisory board member for multiple professional and academic organizations. Obtaining a Ph.D. will further enhance these skills to improve healthcare delivery and access and create structural changes to meet the unique needs of systemically minoritized communities. The NEF/Johnson & Johnson 2023 Health Equity Scholarship will allow him to be one step closer to completing his doctoral education.

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