United Way of Westchester and Putnam hosted its annual and first virtual Women’s Leadership Council “Take a Walk in Her Shoes” event on December 8. Maria M. Trusa, CEO of Formé Medical Center and Urgent Care was recognized as its 2020 “Woman of Distinction.”
Trusa, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and Tarrytown resident, was the Executive Director of Scarsdale Medical Group where she worked for over 26 years. During her tenure, she transformed it from a six-physician and 35 employee practice, to more than 45 physicians and over 200 employees.
In September 2015, Trusa joined Formé Medical Center as their CEO bringing with her the vision to help the underserved and uninsured community gain access to affordable, transparent, dignified, and high-quality medical care.
“Maria has a powerful story and her impact on our community has been incredibly substantial. She has been leading the charge in providing health care services to the most vulnerable, uninsured residents in Westchester County,” said United Way President and CEO, Tom Gabriel. “It is an incredible honor and privilege to recognize her.”
Trusa provided event attendees with a glimpse into her painful past, and how she transformed her pain into strength. “You can do anything you want in life,” Trusa said. “All you need to do is imagine, believe, and create.” The dialogue’s themes included developing and supporting an inclusive environment where everyone’s voice can be heard.
The evening also included a dialogue on diversity, equity, and inclusion with special guests and panelists Trusa, Mecca E. Mitchell, Esq., Senior VP of Diversity and Community Relations for Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) and Former Chief Diversity Officer for the State of New York, and Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, Partner at Thompson & Bender and United Way’s 2017 Woman of Distinction Honoree and a Croton-on-Hudson resident.
Mitchell, a Rockland County resident, spoke about the importance of creating an inclusive and empathetic workplace. “Putting yourself in someone else’s position is about being an ally,” she said. “I don’t have to look like you or sound like you to understand your struggle, to be able to play a role in empowering you.”
Participants each received a “Gratitude Giftbag,” which contained a mezze tray from Ladle of Love, wine, and a copy of Trusa’s book, “I Say No More.”
The event helped to raise funds to support ALICE women, children, and families affected by the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. At its core, it is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn just above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough for a survival budget.
“ALICE households are what we used to call “The Working Poor,” said Gabriel. “These are your child care workers, security guards, cashiers at your supermarket, gas attendants, the salespeople at your big box store, the home health aides, and waiters and waitresses at your local restaurant.”
“They were struggling to meet basic needs before the pandemic. Pre-pandemic research found that 37% of households in Westchester and Putnam fell below the ALICE threshold, meaning they were unable to meet a basic household survival budget for housing, food, transportation, childcare, health care and technology,” Gabriel continued. “United Way is committed to assisting these vulnerable populations that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
The WLC Committee members included Leslie Lampert, Owner of Ladle of Love, and Bernadette Schopfer of Maier, Markey & Justic, LLP.
A recording of the event can be viewed on United Way’s website at https://www.uwwp.org/wlc-hershoes/.