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by Donna Parker
Robert Weech-Maldonado, who received a bachelor's degree in biology from Trinity in 1983, an MBA from the University of Puerto Rico in 1987, and a Ph.D. from Temple University in 1998, is a man on a very important mission. As a professor and L.R. Jordan Endowed Chair in Health Services Administration for the University of Alabama, Robert focuses on long-term care in nursing homes and the provision of adequate medical care for vulnerable and diverse populations.
Robert is nationally recognized as an authority on health disparities, cultural competency tools for healthcare organizations, racial and ethnic differences in patient experiences with care, and long-term care.
That's a lot to take in, but after just a few moments of listening to this soft-spoken educator, you realize that he manages to wade through the complicated parts and keep his eye on the prize, which is at its very base-quality health care for the elderly and minorities.
"My research interests started when I was working on my doctoral degree," says Robert. "There was a faculty member with this area of interest. I began looking at the vulnerable Hispanic population, with language disparities and economics impeding quality care and then it morphed into assisting with an aging population of baby boomers. Now it feels very comfortable to help contribute solutions to both problem areas."
One interesting fact that Robert unearthed is that nursing homes that provide better quality also exhibit a better financial performance.
"So, it's not like you have to sacrifice quality to perform better financially."
Robert credits Trinity with laying the groundwork for the critical thinking and analytical writing skills necessary for his career focus.
"The library was my favorite place," he chuckles. "I worked there part-time, but for me, it was the best place to study-a fascinating place."
"I remember professors such as Dr. Nancy Mills, department of chemistry, who taught a very difficult subject but explained things in a way that was easy to understand. She was very impressive and seemed to really enjoy her classes. Also, Dr. Scott Baird, department of English, was a great person! He was another one of those people, who not only was a great teacher, but also one who really motivated his students to succeed. Spanish is my first language so his class was very helpful in improving my English skills! I also remember very fondly Dr. James Taggart, department of Spanish, who I viewed as a mentor. He was a dynamic professor who shared my interest in Puerto Rican history and literature."
"Trinity felt much more personal to me than larger universities. The undergraduate experience really shapes the rest of your education and it was a good foundation. Some of my teaching models there provided me the template for becoming a mentor myself. It's been very gratifying for me to mentor students. Some are still in touch with me, so it's a nice offset to studying the aging population."
You may contact Robert at rweech [at] uab.edu.