How Jennifer Perez Became QTC’s First Latina Director
First woman in her family to go to college. First-generation college student.
First Latina Director at QTC.
Program Management Director for Disability and Occupational Health Services (DOHS) Jennifer Perez is on a mission to make sure that although she is the first, she won’t be the last.
“I want to show that there is growth. There are opportunities to become leaders,” she said. “It’s not an easy or fast task, but once you get there, you can bring others with you.”
Her Southern California roots
Perez has lived in Southern California all her life, growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1980s. Her mother is Salvadoran and her father is Mexican, which sparked an interest in Latin American history and relationships between different countries and cultures.
In the late 1990s, she attended University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and paid her own way through school. She double majored in History and Political Science and specialized in Latin American history and international relations.
“I learned a lot about my own heritage,” she said.
Her interest in healthcare began during her first year at UCLA. She thought she wanted to go into medicine, so she interned for a doctor at the nearby VA Medical Center. She assisted with administrative tasks and clinical trials. Although she didn’t pursue a career as a doctor, she still searched for ways to be part of changing the world of healthcare.
Lifelong advocate for the Latino community
As she completed her master’s degree in public administration at Cal State Los Angeles (CSULA), she continued to advocate for the local community. She worked at a nonprofit that provides support for Latino children with cancer and their families. Latino children were translating their cancer diagnoses to their parents, and Perez’s position in the nonprofit was to take over the translation work and advocate for the families.
“When I was a kid, I also had to translate for my mom at the doctor. A lot of children still have to do this,” she said.
When she got pregnant with her first child, she decided to make the transition away from nonprofit work and took a position running a clinic in Huntington Park, California, that offered services such as workers’ compensation and surgery. The communities she served were mainly Latino and other people of color.
That’s where she learned first-hand how to run a clinic and began her career in healthcare management.
Perez went on to work as a program manager for LA County’s sexual child abuse center and oversaw three clinics for both children and adult services. She oversaw programs for children and the elderly and continued her work with the local Latino and minority communities.
QTC’s first Latina director
In 2014, she came to QTC as the Associate Director of VHA Contracts. She was excited to work with the Veteran population.
She was promoted to Program Management Director for DOHS in December 2021, making her QTC’s first Latina director in our 41-year history. She now manages our current contracts and ensures they meet the needs of our clients, among other responsibilities.
“I’ve been here for eight years, and the fact that QTC saw potential in me was very humbling,” Perez said.
Mentorship has played a huge role in Perez’s career at QTC. In her former position as Associate Director, she was mentored by other women in leadership roles.
And she made sure to bring others with her as she rose. Through one of our leadership programs, she mentored Operations Supervisor Jackie Delfin.
“She helped me grow into my leadership role,” Delfin said. “I really appreciate how she listens to everyone’s ideas and provides a good working environment.”
Creating Community at QTC
Perez wanted more opportunities to talk about her culture and invite others to celebrate with her, so she spearheaded the first in-person event at our headquarters in 2021: a Hispanic Heritage Luncheon. Participants were served free Mexican meals.
What’s more, she put together a cultural altar, known as an ofrenda, at our headquarters to celebrate the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos.
And that was just the beginning— Perez worked with other Latinas to start QTC’s first Hispano-Latinx Leidos Asociación (HoLA) chapter in Los Angeles county. HoLA provides professional and social opportunities to anyone interested in Latino culture.
“Jennifer is a trailblazer,” HoLA President Dalia Lomeli said. “She’s opening doors and showing us how to get it done. I know it’s hard to be that first person, and I am inspired by all the differences she’s making here at QTC.”
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