Jessica Henry is proud of her heritage, quite simply because “it is a part of who I am.”
A third-generation Mexican American, Jessica credits her family and her heritage for making her the person she is today. The director of community health for Mercy Health – Toledo, Jessica works to remove barriers to care and address issues that impact the health and well-being of our community.
She loves her job – one that allows her to live the Mercy Health Mission every day of giving good help to those in need. And she knows exactly where she learned that desire to excel.
“My grandparents and mother taught us the value of hard work and goal-setting. They told us we can do anything if we put in the work needed to reach our goals and/or dreams,” she said.
In recognition of the achievements of the Hispanic community, the president annually issues a proclamation designating Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as “National Hispanic Heritage Month.”
Certified in public health, Jessica was drawn early on to helping others. She joined the ministry 23 years ago as a contract employee working for a grant-funded teen pregnancy prevention program. In 1999, Mercy Health — St. Vincent Medical Center received a large grant to address teen pregnancy prevention, and she was hired on full time.
“Fun fact, I started my health care career in 1993 as a radiation therapist at Bon Secours — Maryview Medical Center (in Virginia), so with the merger (between Bon Secours and Mercy Health) in 2018, my health care career came full circle,” she said.
Jessica’s mother is a second-generation Mexican American and her father is primarily Scottish and Irish. Looking back, not learning Spanish remains one of Jessica’s biggest regrets. But while she did not speak the language at home, Jessica was raised learning about – and being proud of – her Mexican heritage.
“I absolutely love the sense of “familia” that is a large part of Hispanic culture,” she said. “Familia is more than your immediate family. It is your extended family along with friends who become family. My fondest childhood memories are of the Christmas Eve parties at my grandparents’ house with familia, which always included my grandma’s homemade tamales.”
Spending time with her family remains one of Jessica’s favorite pastimes – that and enjoying time at the beach and going to concerts. In fact, when reflecting on Hispanic Heritage Month, she said the most enjoyable way to celebrate is by sharing the wonderful stories about her family’s history with her nieces and nephews.
“They did not have the privilege to meet my grandparents, and continuing to share their stories about them and our heritage will help keep our traditions and pride alive,” she added.
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