Marcela Frazier photoLocated in the middle of the Andes is Medellín, Colombia. This is where, a number of years ago, Marcela Frazier’s mother raised both her and her brother. Brought up with little resources, Marcela Frazier, OD, MSPH, watched her single-mom work hard to provide for her family’s needs and create a happy and loving home.

As a child, without the money needed for preventative care and doctor visits, Frazier found herself struggling in school. When Frazier reached the sixth grade, a teacher expressed her concern, claiming it could be beneficial to take Frazier to a free hospital for underserved communities where foreign doctors would volunteer their time in the Medellín area. After meeting with the optometrist, an experience that changed her life, Frazier and her mother learned of her nearsightedness.

After finding the right prescription, Frazier’s confidence and abilities in school skyrocketed—so much so that she would go on to receive a scholarship to study biology. While she was thinking about what she wanted to do for a career, Frazier remembered seeing a boy come into the hospital’s burn unit where she was seen for her vision. As the on-staff team of nurses and doctors attended to his needs, Frazier knew in this moment, helping others was a passion she wanted to pursue.

Just before turning 19, Frazier moved to the U.S. to study molecular biology at Central Florida. It was here that an optometrist came to talk to her class, and Frazier realized optometry was a natural fit. Upon graduation, Frazier moved to Birmingham to attend the UAB School of Optometry—where she would later graduate and complete her residency. With the original intention of returning to Colombia, Frazier and her now-husband discussed how she could help Hispanic families and children right here in Birmingham.

Since she decided to stay in Birmingham, Dr. Marcela has built a unique patient base at UAB. With her ability to speak Spanish and English and her presence in the Hispanic community, patients are able to form an instant bond. Building the trust needed for patients to accept her recommendations and diagnoses often came from changing their perspectives. Frazier explained, “20 years ago, I would see Hispanic patients, and I would tell their parents ‘your kid needs glasses, and they didn’t believe me. Many people in the Hispanic community believed little kids didn’t need glasses because their eyes were not broken yet.”

Through patience and understanding, Dr. Marcela has been able to help change the lives and perspectives of many Hispanic children and families. In turn, Frazier’s patients tell their Spanish-speaking friends about their experience with her. As a result, Hispanic patients account for about 30% of the people Dr. Marcela sees. Frazier adds, “I’ve had people who have helped me in my life so I can achieve things and reach my full potential. Now, I want to find and help those little kids who might need to see better to reach their potential.”

After being approached by Dr. Mona Fouad in the early months of 2020, Dr. Marcela along with Drs. Fernando Ovalle and Sara Pereira, have taken on a leadership role in the newly established Hispanic/Latinx Faculty Association. Using a similar mission to that of a UAB group from~15 years ago, Manos Juntas (created by one of her mentors, Dr. Isabel Scarinci) Dr. Marcela’s vision for the group is two-fold.

For fellow doctors, residents, and prospective students, Frazier is working to create a place where everyone feels understood and culturally connected. As someone who found herself moving to Birmingham from Florida, friends, and family would ask, “are you sure you want to move to Birmingham?” After experiencing UAB for herself, Dr. Marcela recognized the existence of a Hispanic community at UAB and wanted to be a part of helping strengthen that comradery.

On the other side, to help patients, Frazier has a bold vision for the Hispanic/Latinx Faculty Association’s role in enhancing their experience. Along with the Hispanic/Latinx Faculty Association, Dr. Marcela is taking steps to create a community of Hispanic doctors who want to do better for those in these underserved populations. Establishing a network of trusted Spanish-speaking/Hispanic-Latinx doctors would help health care providers, such as Frazier, send patients to trusted doctors with whom they can identify.

Dr. Marcela and the School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion would like to send a special thank you to the Hispanic Faculty Association members. Those members are as follows:

Maria Acosta Lara
Ann Marie Arciniegas-Bernal
Carlos Arguello
David Askenazi
Daniel Atherton
Andre Ballesteros-Tato
Giovanna Beauchamp
Vanessa Cardenas Soto
Waldemar Carlo
Waldemar Carlo
Tiago Colicchio
Constanza Cortes Rodriguez
Luciano Costa
Diego De Idiaquez Bakula
Jorge De La Torre
Maria Descartes
Carlos Estrada
Ricardo Franco
Marcela Frazier
Angelo Gaffo
Ana Galtarossa Xavier
Claudia Gaviria Agudelo
Daniel Goldberg-Zimring
Enrique Gongora
Hector Gutierrez
Orlando Gutierrez
Jewell Halanych
German Henostroza
Alonso Heudebert
Gustavo Heudebert
Sarah Jacobs
Sixto Leal
Jose Lucio Lima
Silvio Litovsky
Michael Lopez
Tatiana Marquez-Lago
Jesse Martinez
Erika Mendoza Plaut
Adolfo Molina
Maria Oquendo
Carlos Orihuela
Erik Orozco Hernandez
Fernando Ovalle
Silvio Papapietro
Ada Peralta-Carcelen
Sara Pereira
Lucas Pozzo-Miller
Francisco Robert
Rosalinda Roberts
Martin Rodriguez
Frida Rosenblum Donath
Ariel Salas
Isabel Scarinci-Searles
Justin Schwartz
Jose Tallaj
Rocio Vazquez Do Campo
Isabel Virella-Lowell
Jacques Wadiche
Eric Wallace
James Willig
Vanessa Carddena

Currently, the Hispanic Faculty Association is only open to Hispanic faculty members. However, there are plans to open the group up to allies in the future. Please email Dr. Marcela Frazier (mgfrazier@uabmc.edu) for more details.