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Society of Hospital Medicine Honors Lilia Cervantes, MD with 2021 Award of Excellence: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 18, 2021

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Representing the fastest-growing specialty in modern healthcare, the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) is the leading medical society for hospitalists and their patients.

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Dr. Cervantes' Commitment to DEI Research Results in Findings That Inform Local and National Interventions to Reduce COVID-19 in the Latinx Community

The Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) recently announced the recipients of its 2021 Awards of Excellence, honoring hospitalists who exemplify hospital medicine best practices in areas such as clinical leadership, teaching, teamwork, research, and humanitarian services, among others.

“Hospitalists stepped up in new ways to help their patients and their institutions overcome intense challenges over the past year,” notes Eric E. Howell, MD, MHM, Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Hospital Medicine. “Our Awards of Excellence winners truly embody the innovative spirit and leadership prowess that have become hallmarks of hospitalists, and we are proud to recognize them with this distinguished honor.”

Lilia Cervantes, MD is this year’s recipient in the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” category. Dr. Cervantes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Denver Health Medical Center and the University of Colorado, where she demonstrates an unparalleled commitment to diversity through her patient care, community service efforts, research, and health policy activism.

Following her Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Colorado in 2008, Dr. Cervantes went on to obtain her Master of Science in Clinical Science, became an Associate Professor of Medicine, and a hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center. In addition to her patient-centric roles at Denver Health, Dr. Cervantes has held a variety of roles in the health equity space. These include founding Denver Health Medical Center’s Health Equity Learning Series and the Healthcare Interest Program, a pre-health pipeline program for undergraduate students interested in a healthcare career.

Dr. Cervantes attributes her passion to become a physician to her background as a bilingual Latina who grew up in poverty. She says that her upbringing allows her to use this unique lens to connect with her diverse patient population and to advocate for marginalized communities and eliminate structural inequities.

Her experience with an undocumented immigrant with kidney failure was the catalyst for further research on marginalized patients without access to healthcare, which earned her interviews with NPR and CNN’s Chief Health Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Her research and advocacy led to Colorado Medicaid expanding access to scheduled dialysis for undocumented immigrants with kidney failure. Upon announcement of the change, Dr. Cervantes was recognized as the driving force whose research informed the decision.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Cervantes has worked diligently to launch research projects and create grant-funded programs to reduce the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the Latinx community in Denver. One of her studies centers on the Latinx community. Through qualitative interviews of Latinx who had survived a COVID-19 hospitalization, Dr. Cervantes learned about the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings informed local and national interventions to reduce COVID-19 in the Latinx community.

She has also received numerous accolades, including the inaugural Outstanding Service to the Community in 2019 by Denver Health, the Florence Rena Sabin Award from the University of Colorado, and awards from the community – Health Equity Champion Award from the Center for Health Progress and the Unsung Heroine Award from the Latina First Foundation. She serves on several boards including two community-based organizations --the Center for Health Progress and Vuela for Health.

Dr. Cervantes has been an active member of SHM since 2009 and served as keynote speaker for the annual “Summit of the Rockies” Rocky Mountain Chapter SHM conference “The role of advocacy: moving the needle towards health equity.”

Awards of Excellence winners were recognized at SHM’s annual conference, SHM Converge, which was held virtually from May 3-7, 2021. For more information on SHM’s Awards of Excellence, visit