Community Health Corner: Taking health education to the community

Thursday, February 12, 2015
By Claudia Graham, MBA, MPH

Patient health education is a major component of the access to care and awareness programs in theDivision of Community Health. Clients of Duke Community Health benefit greatly from the depth, span and diversity of experiences of the division’s staff.

Maricela Caceres​Maricela Caceres, M.D., is a health education specialist in the Division of Community Health.

Take, for example, Maricela Caceres, M.D.: Caceres is a native of Colombia, South America, and is a medical doctor by training. Early in her career in Colombia, she served as a primary care provider in a rural community health center, medical director and forensic doctor in a rural hospital, and she also served as an army medical doctor.

Since moving to the United States, Caceres has worked at Duke University for 10 years as clinical research coordinator for an oncology initiative and health education specialist and case manager of a stroke prevention program. In addition, she has served in the U.S. National Guard. Her career, in its entirety, has demonstrated her passion for service to others.

Caceres says that by utilizing her clinical skills and knowledge, she has created a level of trust between the patients and their medical providers, resulting in more efficient and effective.

Caceres currently serves in the capacity of health education specialist and care manager with Northern Piedmont Community Care (NPCC) in pediatrics and Local Access to Coordinated Healthcare (LATCH), both programs within the Division of Community Health.

Caceres is responsible for coordinating and managing the transitional care of the pediatric Hispanic population in the NPCC service area with a focus on asthma patients. She is also responsible for the transitional care of LATCH patients and Emergency Room visit follow-ups, and for assistance with navigating the health system, utilizing community resources and coordinating referrals received from community agencies.

Most of Caceres’ work days are spent in the community meeting patients where they are, which raises their comfort level and willingness to be participative and adhere with their self-management and care plans.

Caceres leads patients, individually and in group settings, in learning sessions on topics including the Trimester Asthma Education Workshop, chronic disease pathophysiology, prevention and treatment and health system navigation.

Caceres finds it rewarding to be a part of bridging the gap between the client and the health system, attributing good communications and cultural awareness as being key to success. Also rewarding are her clients’ expressions of gratitude as she works with them daily to increase access to care and improve health outcomes.

Caceres understands that increasing patient education is essential to changing the health of the community.

Claudia Graham is a training coordinator in the Division of Community Health. She coordinates the Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership Program and the Master of Health Sciences in Clinical Leadership program. Contact her at

Editor’s note: Community Health Corner provides an update on the latest happenings in the Division of Community Health. Community Health Corner appears once a month.