Child's diagnosis spurs service to Adventist Health White Memorial Ruben Maciel

Ruben Maciel is President of The SL Group and new Adventist Health White Memorial Charitable Foundation (AHWMCF) Board of Directors Board Chair.Ruben Maciel Ruben joined the Board of Directors in 2016 and has served the East LA and Boyle Heights communities with tremendous passion, empathy and leadership. He believes that no one should ever struggle to find adequate healthcare for themselves or their loved ones simply because they don’t have the economic means to pay for treatment. For Ruben, these are not empty words. For him and his family, it is deeply personal.

In January 2015, Ruben’s 7-year-old daughter, Sofia, hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. Ruben and his wife, Laleh, were diligent about keeping Sofia up to date with her regular check-ups, but something was unusual. They took her to the doctor, and after several visits, the doctor ordered a few tests.

Shortly thereafter, Ruben, Laleh, and little Sofia received the phone call that changed their lives.

“Sofia’s test results are back in,” the doctor told Laleh. “You need to go to Children’s Hospital tomorrow because it looks like Sofia has type 1 diabetes.”

When Ruben heard this news, he could barely process the pain.

“It felt so painful to be so powerless towards the one individual that I loved the most in this world,” Ruben said. “As a father, your greatest goal in life is to provide care, wellness, love and safety to your family and children. So when one of your kids has any illness, it’s devastating.”

The initial diagnosis was the most painful part of the entire process for Ruben and his family. After dealing with the initial shock, they found a good doctor for Sofia to help her manage her illness. Coincidentally, Laleh also has Type 1 diabetes and is a certified diabetes educator, so she proved to be a tremendous resource and partner for Sofia during this time.

During those regular trips to the hospital, Ruben began to see the daily struggle so many families have to overcome just to provide basic healthcare for their loved ones.

“I saw in every single visit to Children’s Hospital other families that didn’t have the financial tools at their disposal to provide care for their child,” said Ruben. “That was major to me. Your economic circumstances should not play a role in providing wellness and care to your loved ones and to yourself.”

During this time, Victor Franco, a board member with the AHWMCF, invited Ruben to the annual golf tournament where he was introduced to George Ramirez, who served with Victor on the AHWMCF Board of Directors.

“I spent the day with George and learned about White Memorial,” Ruben recounts. “George is one of the most inspirational and aspirational leaders of our community. He asked me to come visit the hospital, I said yes, and the rest is history.”

Eventually, Ruben joined the Adventist Health White Memorial Charitable Foundation Board of Directors and hasn’t looked back.

As a youth growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Ruben’s economic background was limited. One of his early jobs was as a busboy. And although he didn’t have major health challenges as a young person, he saw how economic inequality affects under-resourced communities when a health crisis strikes. Then, once Sofia fell ill, his sense of compassion and a strong sense of duty to fight economic inequalities deepened. He can also empathize with the Adventist Health White Memorial patient populations of East Los Angeles and Boyles Heights.

Ruben is passionate about pediatric healthcare, maternal care and mental health. He believes basic treatment isn’t enough, and that empowering the community to increase their wellness and health outcomes through education and preventative care is the real goal. That is why he supports Adventist Health White Memorial and lends his leadership to the Adventist Health White Memorial Charitable Foundation Board.

“Every single one of the folks on our board is the strongest voice and mind our community has,” Ruben says when asked about becoming board chair. “I hope that I can serve their leadership properly, that I can take their voice, their mission, their ideals, and their goals and help them get them to where they wanted.”

Today, Ruben, Laleh, Sofia, and their youngest daughter Bella are doing well. Sofia and Laleh are both managing their type 1 diabetes and continue to inspire Ruben to work on behalf of others.

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