“It’s an amazing opportunity to sit with somebody, who is 80, 90 years old, and learn about their history and how they evolved into where they are today,” says Dr. Luz Ramo
s, InnovAge’s medical officer for its Eastern region. “I’ve talked to Holocaust survivors. I’ve talked to people who lived through the Great Depression. It helps you be grateful for the things they have done in the past and understand why our world is the way it is today.”
Ramos, a geriatric and primary care physician, led the development of the first Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, in New Jersey. Over the years she has continued to build programs and clinical teams centered around caring for older adults in the community. Today, she provides medical and clinical leadership to InnovAge PACE and LIFE centers in Pennsylvania
and is also InnovAge's chief quality officer.
Ramos was born and raised in the Philippines. In 1998, after graduating from medical school at the University of the East Philippines, she moved to the United States to continue her career in medicine. Early in life, her parents inspired her to choose a career helping others.
“My parents were both in the military. My father, an admiral, was the head of the Seabees [the Philippine Navy’s Construction Battalion]. The Seabees do a lot of construction, such as building housing for the poor, as well as repairing roads and bridges,” says Ramos. “My mother, a colonel, was the chief nursing officer for the Philippine Military Academy and also the head of a small hospital. What they did resonated with me because I believe it’s most important to help people at their lowest point.”
Ramos remembers joining her father on job sites and her mother while she worked at the hospital. A big turning point came when the devastating 1990 Luzon Earthquake
struck the Philippines. The 7.7 magnitude quake killed more than 2,400 people. “My mom was called upon to bring some of her staff to help out, diagnose those injured, and do whatever else was needed. I tagged along and learned how to take blood pressures and administer first aid,” says Ramos.
“It reminds me how lucky and blessed I am. I’m able to provide food, clothing, and shelter, the basic necessities of any human being, at least to my family,” says Ramos.
These experiences, and the influence of her parents, encouraged Ramos to pursue a career caring for others. “If I can continue to give back to someone else and share all of my blessings, I will continue do so.”
This origin of PACE aligns with Ramos’ personal experience growing up Filipino. “Culturally, we believe in taking care of our elders,” she says. “The history of PACE is really that of immigrants coming from other countries, such as China, Italy, and where I am from, the Philippines. These families are trying to figure out what they are going to do with their loved ones, that they brought here to the United States, throughout the day.”
“My grandfather, who was a World War II veteran
was a very honorable man with a lot of pride. He never entered a nursing home, nor did my grandmother, who stayed in the Philippines. My family checked on and supported her through the end of her life.” Ramos says it was a big responsibility and knows a program like PACE could have helped her family and so many others in the Philippines.
“It takes a village. Even as a physician, I really need the support of social workers, dietitians, nurses
, and they rest of the interdisciplinary team. They look at everything for that participant, in totality, in a holistic way of care planning and working to understand the different barriers,” she says. “The heart of every single person at InnovAge is with the participants they serve. They will stop whatever they are doing to take care of that participant and make sure they are okay at the end of the day.”
L-R: Ramos’ family, with staff, and snowboarding with her kids
“I believe helping someone at their lowest point is always important,” Ramos says. “Life is a gift. I feel really indebted to the elderly. What provides meaning is not just all the treatment we can provide, but the support we give to the people around us. That makes it so much more meaningful. To be able to provide honor and dignity is ultimately the best gift you can give to anybody.”
Outside of InnovAge, Ramos makes time for her family. “I love snowboarding. I could see my kids loving it. I said, ‘I’m going to be the cool mom,’ so I might as well just continue snowboarding because I want to be with my cool kids,” she says, laughing. “We also love to travel, try new foods, and just learn everything about what the world has to offer to us.”