Personality: Antonio Villa Payares

Spotlight on La Casa de la Salud founder and executive director

5/16/2024, 6 p.m.
Dr. Antonio Villa Payares was part of the first generation in his family to pursue a career in medicine. He …

Dr. Antonio Villa Payares was part of the first generation in his family to pursue a career in medicine. He became interested in becoming a doctor early on.

“At first, as a child, I admired those professionals and the role they (play) in society,” Dr. Villa Payares said. “Then in high school, I wanted to do something important that I enjoyed while helping other people.”

Dr. Villa Payares’ father was the most important influence in his life. He admired his integrity and moral principles, as well as how he showed up for his family and friends. His father also demonstrated how to treat others the way you want to be treated.

“He inspired me to be independent and work for anything that I want to achieve in my life,” Dr. Villa Payares said.

As a primary care physician, Dr. Villa Payares noticed how much he could impact other people’s lives. He also realized that he could do more for his community, especially through preventative medicine.

Today, Dr. Villa Payares makes an impact through his work and his nonprofit, La Casa de la Salud. Founded in 2014, the organization works to improve the health of the Hispanic community.

La Casa de la Salud has about 30 volunteers who are mostly community health workers. The organization also has a few contractors and staff who also volunteer their efforts. The organization’s volunteers also work on events and activities in the community.

La Casa de la Salud is expanding to localities such as Virginia Beach and Harrisonburg to collaborate with other health organizations. The goal for the organization’s expansion is not to duplicate but to supplement the work that the localities need in public health, especially with the activities the organization has for the community, Dr. Villa Payares said.

Meet the founder and executive director of La Casa de la Salud and this week’s Personality, Dr. Antonio Villa Payares:

Occupation: Medical doctor and executive director of La Casa de la Salud.

Date and place of birth: Nov. 28 in Pivijay, Colombia.

Education: Medical doctor with master’s in public health and management.

Family: I came from Colombia in 2004 with my wife and three sons. My wife is a dentist and used to work in the community, too. Two of my sons are pursuing bachelor’s degrees and the other works as a mechanical engineer.

La Casa de la Salud (LCS) is: A nonprofit organization founded in 2014.

When and why I founded: It was my Capstone project from my MPH at VCU in December 2013. We launched it as an initiative in the city of Petersburg in February 2014 and four months later I registered it as a 501(c)(3). I noticed the great limitation that Hispanics and other immigrants had accessing health information, health services and clinical preventive services.

How LCS works: LCS serves as a bridge facilitating health and other information resources as well as education to preserve individuals and the Hispanic community’s health and well-being. We identify gaps or organizational barriers that prevent individuals from obtaining health and other social services.

How is LCS funded: LCS is funded by federal and state government funds as well as local foundations through grants. There is a small amount from individual donations which we are working on increasing through a plan to obtain more contributions to expand our capacity and response.

LCS’ No. 1 goal or project: One of our main priorities for this year is to strengthen collaborations with health systems, clinics and other key partners to address together the needs of our community.

Strategy for achieving goals: Having a clear understanding of the dynamics and needs of our community.

No. 1 challenge: LCS has been growing fast and we are in the transition to strengthen its structures which is critical for our sustainability, however we are hoping to have good support from local organizations, partners and donors.

Ways I have witnessed the magic of LCS: This journey has been a great learning opportunity to confirm that we can influence others to generate great impact with simplicity.

There are people who are looking for ways to help others, but they do not know how to do it and this movement has been witness to it.

How to help or get help with LCS: Volunteers can call (804) 404-5633 or email lacasadelasalud.org.

LCS partners with: We have a partnership with health systems, clinics, local health departments and other partners with other social services or resources. Working together to create synergy and achieve our goals.

How I start the day: With a coffee with my wife, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of physical and mental exercise.

Words that best describe me: Persistent, open-minded.

Best late-night snack: An orange or apple.

A quote that inspires me: “Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”- Drew Houston

The best thing my parents ever taught me: Honesty with other people.

The person who influenced me the most: My padre.

Book that influenced me the most: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez

Next goal: Expand our movement by engaging other people for healthy communities, facilitating information and providing tools to take care of themselves and others.