Bridging Gender and Socioeconomic Disparities in Health Care

Image by Taylor Tuteur

Image by Taylor Tuteur

Alaina Maciá, CEO of Medical Transport Management (MTM) and an alumna of Washington University
in St. Louis (WUSTL), has dedicated her career to breaking down barriers: those that affront
socioeconomically-­disadvantaged patients in accessing health care, and those that hinder women in the workplace. While these issues seem unrelated, Maciá seizes her position as a female business leader to simultaneously promote gender equality within her own company and uphold her company’s mission of providing equal healthcare access. As part of the Institute of Public Health’s “Women Leaders in Public Health Career” Lecture Series, Maciá discussed her experiences with WUSTL students on October 19th, 2015.

MTM is a non­emergency medical transport (NEMT) service that was founded to address the disparitiesin health care access that result in poor quality of care. Due to past and present housing segregation practices, neighborhoods perpetuate significant inequities in education, income, racial make­up, and access to resources. The For the Sake of All project , led by WUSTL shows a difference of up to 18 years in life expectancy just based on the zip code where St. Louis City and St. Louis County residents live.

In an effort to encourage preventative care medicine and chronic disease treatment, MTM connects individuals in these disadvantaged neighborhoods with a method of transportation to hospitals and clinics. Maciá half-­jokingly commented, “It’s like Uber for low­income and elderly patients, but without the app (because most of them don’t have smartphones).” By managing transportation on behalf of the disadvantaged, MTM is a business that serves the St. Louis community in an underrated, meaningful way.

While battling health care access inequalities in the St. Louis community, Maciá faces the challenge of gender discrimination within her own company. When it comes to achieving success in the workplace, women traditionally experience difficulty in balancing career & family, advocating and negotiating for themselves, finding female role models and building networking skills­­ all the while subject to perpetually-­reinforced stereotypes. According to the March 2015 edition of Modern Health care, “Women represent 1 of 3 physicians and surgeons but they earn only 69 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn.” This trend persists even in traditionally female­-dominated sectors, like nursing: while 90 percent of nurses are female, they are paid 91 cents for every dollar paid to men in the same position.

In MTM, a company where women comprise 60 percent of the leadership team (including the position of CEO), the prospect of women experiencing discrimination is unfathomable. Yet, Macia admitted that a salary analysis done a few years ago demonstrated that even MTM hadn’t escaped the gender-based income gap phenomenon. She reports that third-­party salary resetting has successfully resolved this issue over the years.

Maciá’s story exemplifies how an individual can overcome barriers and empower others to do the same. As a female role model, she inspires women in health care to fight for what they believe in—whether it be discrimination against themselves or against their patients. Ultimately, she demonstrates that an individual’s passion can impact policies and practices in healthcare.

Neha Prasad is a junior from New Jersey. She can be reached at

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