The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is tremendously pleased to announce that our executive director, Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., has been named to the Biden-Harris Administration COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The purpose of the Task Force is to infuse health equity principles into the nation’s response to the pandemic.
The Task Force was created by an executive order signed by President Joseph R. Biden on January 21, 2021. Its charge includes “recommendations on equitable allocation of COVID-19 resources and relief funds, effective outreach and communication to underserved and minority populations, and improving cultural proficiency within the Federal Government,” according to the White House’s announcement. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine, chairs the Task Force.
Health equity is central to the Hogg Foundation’s commitment to improving mental health and well-being at the community level. The foundation has invested considerable energy in educating the public about why health equity matters in the fight against the pandemic, as well as defining health equity and related concepts such as cultural humility and the social determinants of health. In his most recent commentary, Dr. Martinez has argued for the creation of an Office of Health Equity within the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. It was also at his behest that the foundation publicly declared racism a mental health crisis.
A native Texan and licensed psychiatrist, Dr. Martinez is a leading expert on health equity and health disparities. Dr. Martinez holds an appointment of Senior Associate Vice President within The University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Dell Medical School, and clinical professor in the university’s School of Social Work. He also holds an adjunct professor appointment at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.
Among the numerous boards and commissions on which he serves, he currently serves on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s, Health and Medicine Division’s Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Preparedness and Response Board of Scientific Counselors. He is a recipient of the 2015 Psychiatric Excellence Award from the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Texas’s 2015 Mental Health Professional of the Year Award, among other honors. He is the fifth executive director and first practicing psychiatrist to lead the Hogg Foundation since its creation in 1940.
“I can’t begin to describe what an exciting opportunity and honor it is to be named to this White House task force,” said Dr. Martinez. “Not only is it a credit to the Hogg Foundation and The University of Texas, but to the hard work of everyone who is committed to health equity and to making sure that health and mental health incorporate a health equity perspective. I applaud the Biden-Harris administration for recognizing this need at this crucial time.”