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Class of 2024

Head of the Office of Health and Racial Equity, City of Springfield: Age 33

Chrismery GonzalezChismery Gonzalez says she’s always been interested in promoting equity, especially in regard to leveling the playing field for traditionally marginalized people.

And in her current role as head of the Office of Health and Racial Equity in Springfield, she’s doing just that. It’s a wide-ranging job she assumed in late 2020, one that continues to evolve and add new responsibilities, while recording progress on some fronts.

“What’s most important to realize about this work is that it’s not just one individual that’s leading this work and making strides,” she said, adding that her work has involved many different realms, from vaccination efforts during COVID to youth substance abuse to overdose prevention.

Gonzalez started working in Springfield’s Department of Health and Human Services as an intern in 2018, eventually becoming head of its Office of Problem Gambling and Prevention, before stepping into her current role around the time Springfield — and many other cities — declared racism a public-health crisis in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The city was also coping with the pandemic, a time when many public-health and wellness inequities came into the spotlight and were in some ways magnified.

Since assuming that role, Gonzalez has a number of achievements to her credit, including:

• Creating a strategic plan to address systemic racism in the city, prioritizing departments, agencies, and organizations and including key strategies to achieve a healthier Springfield;

• Coordinating with local providers and community-based organizations to develop a cohesive network of health-equity and racial-justice programs and resources in the city;

• Conducting research on current and culturally appropriate, evidenced-based practices to advance health equity and racial justice; and

• Collaborating with the Office of Health Equity at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the chief Diversity, Equity & and Inclusion officer in Springfield to develop health-equity and racial-justice training initiatives for residents.

Gonzalez, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UMass Amherst and is working toward a doctorate in Public Health at SUNY Albany, said her current work is very rewarding, especially in the way she is able work collaboratively with others — in the 413 and across the state — to address deep-rooted problems and concerns.

Active in the community, she currently serves on the Duggan Academy advisory board, the Stop Access Coalition steering committee, the Massachusetts Public Health Assoc. board (chairing its racial equity and health committee), the Massachusetts Municipal DEI Coalition, the Gándara board of directors, and other groups.

—George O’Brien