Maria S. Gomez is the founder of Mary’s Center, a community health organization providing health care, education and social services in the DC metropolitan region.
In 1988 while Maria was working as a nurse at the District of Columbia’s Department of Health, she witnessed a large increase in the number of Latin American immigrants migrating to the United States to escape war, poverty, and death. Many of the women had been raped or experienced other trauma in their journeys north. Once in the United States, these women often went without prenatal care because they had nowhere to go. Mary’s Center was founded that year to help meet the needs of these vulnerable women. Created with funding from the D.C. mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) and the D.C. Department of Health, Mary’s Center started delivering bilingual health services to pregnant women and their infants in the mainly Latino areas of the city’s Ward 1.
Under Maria’s leadership, Mary’s Center has grown from an initial budget of $250,000 serving 200 participants at a basement in 1988 to an annual budget of $45 million serving over 36,000 individuals at seven locations and one mobile unit in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Maria has been the recipient of numerous local and national important recognitions, including the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. Originally from Colombia, South America, Maria holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley.