Every couple of months, I go speak to high school students about why I chose the law. I tell my story. I was born and raised in El Salvador and didn’t move to the United States until I was almost 16. I didn’t speak a single word of English.

I did my undergrad in criminology at San Francisco State University, then I worked for La Raza Centro Legal. I loved the work, so I decided to go to law school. In first week of law school, I’m hearing words that I’ve never heard before, and I’m freaking out. What am I getting myself into?

But I used the fear, my concerns of not being in the right place, just to drive me. It was a challenge that I embraced and I took advantage of to better myself professionally and personally.

That’s one reason why I’m here at Alameda Health System — being able to interact with others who probably have the same perceptions that I did myself, saying “I can’t do that. I don’t know the language. It’s too difficult.” But hard work pays off. I’m a testament to that because I didn’t let the language barriers, financial barriers, societal expectations define who I was or who I would become.

Working as an in-house attorney for AHS is a dream career for me. AHS fosters a culture of learning and becoming experts, and provides encouragement for professional development. That is something that I value and appreciate.

I see AHS as a sanctuary, a place where, regardless of whether someone is insured or not, you’ll still receive the vital health care that you need. This is a place where people feel safe that they can come without fearing any concerns about their financial status or legal status.

I’m constantly reminded that our work really makes a difference. I’ve heard it over and over again from patients, saying, “Alameda Health System saved my life.”

Alexander Peña
Associate General Counsel
Alameda Health System–Highland Hospital