Some people leave a footprint in life and our hearts. Bibiana Garzon “Bibi” was one of those.
Hennepin Healthcare’s Aqui Para Ti / Here for You clinic turns 20 years old this summer. Dr. Maria Veronica Svetaz created this “clinic within a clinic” while she was faculty at La Clinica en Lake, a new clinic from the now MN Care organization. It was funded by the Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative to support Latino adolescents (that supports the program still today). Following the Health Equity spirit of serving communities by teams from the same culture, the clinic works with Latino youth ages 11 to 24 (and their families). As Latino teens are often raised in a culture very different from their parents, they needed a different approach: Family-Centered youth care.
The program came to Hennepin Healthcare when La Clinica en Lake became East Lake Clinic. Today, the program is housed in our Whittier Clinic as the team followed their growth during their first decade and moved to Whittier to be near the family medicine residents.
The program changed sites and staff, and everyone who touched the program and the community left their legacy. But the team wants to honor the second Program Coordinator, a true Latine Community leader: Bibi, whose passion and dedication were felt by many.
Bibi was born in Bogota, Colombia. She graduated from the Social Communication program and obtained a master’s degree in Scientific and Technical Communication at Minnesota. As a student, Bibi worked as a research assistant in classes focused on Latino culture and health and collaborated with different professionals, guiding them and instilling empathy towards the Latino community. She came to Aqui Para ti full of connections, both at the university and in the community.
Bibi worked for more than five years as Aqui para-Ti’s coordinator. She was fantastic in her leadership role. She had it all: critical thinking and a continuous problem-solving attitude, teamwork and collaboration expert, outstanding professionalism and work ethic, and brilliant communication skills. And all of that mixed with her incredible compassion and unparalleled humanity. She left deep-rooted marks in her work with patients she cared for as if they were her own family and to whom she devoted all her efforts. Bibi could alleviate the pain and suffering of patients just by talking to them, and she created a strong bond with them that continues to this day. Her leadership skills and commitment put the program at a different level. She worked tirelessly to advocate, organize, and, together with Dr. Svetaz, launched the first system-wide arm coming from Aqui Para TI: “Henne-Teen,” now called Between Us.
Sadly, Bibi passed away after losing her battle against cancer. Bibi’s sister, Patricia, is an interpreter at Hennepin Healthcare. Bibi’s nephew (Patricia’s son) sports an Aqui Para Ti tattoo in honor of his aunt.
Those who had the honor and joy of knowing Bibi as her co-worker and friend know the quality of human being she was. She liked to dance, celebrate (Halloween was one of her favorites), and loved her family and friends. A smile was always on her face, and she could lift you on even on your darkest days.
She continues with us through the legacy she left behind, such as her friendship, her passion for working with teens, and her love for doing what we love best: working for our community. This summer, Aqui Para Ti will turn 20 years old, and we will celebrate the program and the memory of one of the team members who made the program the lighthouse it is today.
Maria Veronica Svetaz, MD, MPH is a family medicine provider at the Whittier Clinic. She developed and manages the Aqui Para Ti / Here for You program, a youth development program, which provides medical, social, and development care to Latino adolescents and young adults and provides resources to live their best life.