Clemencia Vargas leads Spanish/English translation and interpretation services, conducts evaluation research, and provides public health consultation for Tenacious Change, LLC. She is a native Spanish speaker from Colombia, South America where she received graduate degrees in dentistry and epidemiology. Upon immigrating to the United States, she earned a PhD in medical sociology from Arizona State University and remains a proud Sun Devil today.
She was a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) class of 1994. She is a tenured associate professor in the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry where she has been a teacher and researcher since 1999.
Clemencia’s research focuses on socio-economic inequalities in oral health, an area in which she has published numerous scientific articles including a seminal article on oral pediatric health disparities in 1998 which continues today to be one of the most cited articles in the field. She was a member of the Institute of Medicine committee that wrote the report “Advancing Oral Health in America.”
Clemencia Vargas has a strong interest and long-time involvement in working at the community level to improve health outcomes. She is the faculty advisor for several dental students groups that emphasize community service, especially in elementary schools in the Baltimore area. For almost 10 years she has been leading oral health programs at Wolfe Street Academy, a charter elementary school serving one of the most vulnerable communities in Baltimore comprised of many recent Latino immigrants. At Wolfe Street Academy, different dental student organizations provide distinct educational programs like the holistic approach to oral health education presented by the Healthy Smiles for Baltimore Kids group. Also at Wolfe Street Academy, several Schweitzer fellows, mentored by Clemencia, have conducted oral health education for Spanish-speaking parents in their first language. Also in Baltimore, Catholic Charities gave the School of Dentistry an award of appreciation for her work in the planning and starting of Esperanza’s Center dental services. Clemencia is also a member of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Community Engagement Group.
Her passion for community level public health work also spurred her interest in translation and interpretation. Throughout her career in the United States she has been involved in translation and interpretation work. She has written a Spanish-language HIV/AIDS curriculum and other sexual health materials that integrate culturally appropriate Latin American content. In addition to translating numerous health education materials for a variety of health organizations serving Spanish speaking populations, she regularly provides interpretation services for patients and students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and in health fairs throughout the Baltimore/Washington region.
Dr. Clemencia Vargas has provided leadership in community health promotion efforts outside of Baltimore as well. Since 2000 Clemencia Vargas has led a team of students from the Hispanic Dental Association and other groups within the School of Dentistry in two health fairs per year at the Langley Park Community Center in Langley Park, Maryland. These health fairs serve a diverse population of low-income recent immigrants to the United States. More than 100 children and many adults are seen in each of these health fairs and receive dental education, screenings, and fluoride varnish.
In her free time, Clemencia Vargas enjoys ballroom dancing with her spouse, spending time with her two dogs, and knitting. Her knitting has become yet another venue for health service as she frequently knits “chemo caps” and prosthetic breasts (“Knittted Knockers”) for female cancer patients and tiny stocking hats for pre-mature babies.