As President and CEO of the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) since 1997, Carmela has overseen the operations of this membership organization which serves as the largest and most diverse nonprofit community health center system in the nation. CPCA represents more than 1,100 community clinics and health centers (CCHCs) and the 5.7 million patients they serve. Under Carmela’s nearly two decades of leadership, federal revenue to California CCHCs has increased more than 300 percent and CPCA’s member clinics have more than doubled in the number of sites as well as the number of patients they serve. Given the critical role of CCHCs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the growth and success of these nonprofit, community-based health care providers positions them to be the ultimate solution to the ongoing challenge of serving millions of previously uninsured, low-income individuals in the state of California. Through her 25 years of experience in healthcare, Carmela has become a leading expert in a wide array of health policy issues, including the healthcare safety net, Latino and multi-cultural health access issues, health care reform, and primary care.
In 2015, Carmela’s lifelong commitment to equity and justice for the Latino community assumed new dimensions when she became President of the Castellano Family Foundation. This organization was founded by her parents in 2001 after her father, Alcario Castellano, won the state’s largest single lottery jackpot at the time. The Foundation was operated by her parents for the first decade of its existence and is guided by the core principles of community, family, social change, empathy, and integrity. It has awarded nearly $4 million in grants to nonprofit organizations investing in Latino arts and culture, education, leadership development and diversity in Santa Clara County.
California’s rapid cultural diversity growth is both the cause and the force that has driven Carmela. She is passionate about a wide range of issues such as employment, education, workforce diversity, health care reform, affordable access to health care for Latino and other underserved populations, and the strengthening of the state’s health care safety net. By listening to the voices of diverse communities and promoting their collective empowerment and direct participation through her organizational leadership, she has helped advance the powerful idea that the model of multicultural health and health equity is synonymous to that of a vibrant, healthy, and equitable future for all Californians.
Having earned a degree from Yale Law School in 1991 following graduation from UC Berkeley, Carmela began her real education in the fine art of public interest advocacy when she elected to join the San Francisco law firm Public Advocates, Inc. as an attorney. During her time there she focused on employment discrimination, insurance redlining, and internet access for low-income communities of color. Her tenure at Public Advocates also provided an opportunity to pursue the issue that would define her subsequent professional career in advocacy: health care reform and access to affordable, quality care for the state’s fast-growing, largely uninsured and underserved Latino communities. In the two decades since, Carmela has given proof to her own dictum on advocacy: “We never give up and we stay true to our mission and our vision,” of health equity and justice for all.
I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you. Joyce Meyer, Author