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Healthcare Social Worker Earns Town of Hempstead Pathfinder Award

Rockville Centre resident Maria Antonia Fonte, MSW, was honored with the Town of Hempstead’s 2009 Pathfinder Award in Healthcare Services. Ms. Fonte, a healthcare social worker at South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Family Medicine Center, was cited by Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray for her work with helping hundreds of underserved families, parents, and children in the Town of Hempstead access the healthcare programs and services designed to safeguard their physical and mental health and wellness.

The Pathfinder Award recognizes the talent and commitment women have shown in the fields of education, health services, business, the arts, community affairs, volunteerism and humanitarianism. A high school senior of distinction is also honored as well as a dedicated Town of Hempstead employee.

“Ms. Fonte and the women who comprise the 2009 class of Pathfinder Award recipients are individuals who are fine role models not only for women, but also for everyone,” said Supervisor Murray. “They represent the thousands of women whose daily activities strengthen the community and encourage its positive development for our young women.”

Through Ms. Fonte’s guidance, patients of South Nassau’s Family Medicine Center are linked to vital resources and services such as the hospital’s Charity Care Program (where eligible patients without insurance coverage can receive health care services at no charge); the Healthy Women’s Partnership (a free breast and cervical screening program); Women’s Infant and Children (WIC) Program; health insurance and prescription drug programs; adult literacy programs; food pantries; outreach offices for clothing and furniture needs; early intervention and other community resources.

In addition, she works closely with pregnant woman and their families through the Center’s Prenatal Care Assistance Program (PCAP). This includes providing monthly Spanish Prenatal and Maternity Care seminars, visiting new mothers with the resident interns of the Center to provide education and support in their home environment. She is also involved in the Center’s on-site outreach initiatives, offering educational programs on daycare, infant care, immigration and health insurance to the underserved communities in the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County.

To meet the challenges of an increasingly multicultural workforce and patient population, Ms. Fonte helped establish South Nassau’s Cultural Initiatives Committee. This committee is divided into seven workgroups that function as a single team to eliminate barriers created by cultural differences that hinder the delivery of health care to diverse patients. With Fonte’s assistance, the committee ensures the delivery of language interpretation services; oversees the conversion of documents into several different languages; assists with multicultural recruiting; and plans community healthcare outreach programs designed to maintain and strengthen the hospital’s ties with its multi-cultural communities.

“Maria’s efforts and leadership are vital to closing the gap in communication between healthcare providers and the underserved and multicultural residents of Nassau County as well as increasing their access of the health and wellness programs and services devoted to meeting their needs,” said Sheila D’Nodal, MD, Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Ambulatory Services. “The entire South Nassau family congratulates her for this outstanding achievement and applauds her for her commitment to advancing South Nassau’s tradition of excellence in the delivery of healthcare services.”

Ms. Fonte’s path to fulfilling her heart’s passion to serve as a healthcare professional was far from ordinary. Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Maria’s parents applied for and were granted permission to migrate from communist Cuba to Spain with temporary resident status to ensure that their daughter and her brother, Carlos, were guaranteed the freedom and liberty to pursue their dreams. In March of 1972, when Maria was nine and Carlos was eight, the family applied for and was granted entry into the United States. The family settled in the Village of Rockville Centre (where Maria lives today with her 9-year-old daughter Emma Josephine).

By the age 15, Ms. Fonte was in pursuit of her dream, serving as a “Candy Striper” at a local hospital and visiting with and assisting with the care of its elderly patients and as a summer youth counselor at the Rockville Center EOC for elementary school children. After graduating from Oceanside High School, Ms. Fonte enrolled at Nassau Community College, where she earned a Certificate as a Geriatric Health Care Specialist. In 1989, she graduated from Molloy College with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and soon thereafter accepted a position as Social Worker for a long term care health care facility in Suffolk County. Eventually, she was promoted to Senior Social Worker of the facility’s 157-bed unit for dementia, long-term care, and rehabilitation.

In August of 1996, Ms. Fonte completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work Case Management from Adelphi University, and in December, 1997 she received her Master’s Social Work License. From August of 2002 thru January of 2005, she worked as the Assistant Director of Nassau County Latino Affairs. In February of 2005, she joined South Nassau Communities Hospital.

Her commitment to the community is further demonstrated by volunteer work and active membership with following organizations: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW); Girl Scouts of Nassau County Latino Task Force; Girl Scouts Leader for a Brownie/Junior Troop at Our Holy Redeemer Parish, Freeport, NY and Our Holy Redeemer Church Youth Praise Team Volunteer.

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