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Possibilities Endless: Lilia Cervantes, MD

Clinician’s focus on health equity research and advocacy leads to change in Colorado policy

minute read

Written by Kiley Carroll on March 9, 2022
What You Need To Know

Lilia Cervantes, MD, changed healthcare policy in Colorado after treating socially marginalized patients with kidney failure who were unable to access standard dialysis. Now she’s helping others address health equity policy issues on campus and beyond.

While practicing medicine at Denver Health, Lilia Cervantes, MD, researcher and associate professor of hospital medicine and director of immigrant health at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, treated socially marginalized patients with kidney failure who had no access to standard dialysis care. These patients could only receive dialysis at the emergency room when their health was in critical condition. 

Cervantes’ experience treating a patient and friend who suffered repeatedly from this situation led her to pivot her career from clinical work to research and advocacy for the expansion of access to standard dialysis for undocumented and uninsured immigrants.

“Patients came to the hospital at the brink of death, needing dialysis. From so many perspectives, this needed to change. But I honestly didn’t expect to change health policy this quickly.”  – Lilia Cervantes, MD.

Thanks to the work of Cervantes and her team, the state of Colorado in February 2019 announced a policy change that expanded access to standard three-times-per-week dialysis care for patients with kidney failure who previously had to rely on emergency-only treatment. Cervantes’ research was conducted and funded by the CU School of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Denver Health.

“I grew up in a neighborhood that is very poor, where the life expectancy is about 12 years shorter [than it is in] a neighborhood that’s just five miles away,” Cervantes said. “From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to be a physician. I wanted to improve the well-being of my community.”

In the video below – produced as part of the Possibilities Endless advertising campaign promoting the remarkable talent, research and innovation taking place on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus – watch Cervantes tell her story and share her passion for health equity research.

For more information about the innovative work being done by Cervantes and other visionaries at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, please visit possibilities-endless.com.

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