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Dr. Flavia Elaine Mercado

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1962

Medical School

Emory University School of Medicine



Career Path

Pediatric medicine
Education: Teaching
Dr. Flavia Elaine Mercado


During my childhood I entertained the idea of becoming a teacher because I really liked school and admired my teachers. Then I thought I would be a linguist since I knew Spanish and was trying to learn French and German. However, in school math and science were always my favorite subjects and I especially enjoyed dissecting the frog and pig in high school. My family and I experienced first hand the hardships and joys of having a learning disabled brother. I witnessed the frustration and anguish my mother experienced when medical professionals told her that her son might never walk or talk. These educational and personal experiences led me to choose the medical profession.


As a bilingual physician and educator, Dr. Flavia Mercado teaches the value of cultural competency. More than sharing a language, cultural competency requires that physicians are aware of cultural differences and treat all patients respectfully, an ideal Mercado instills in every medical student she teaches.

Flavia Mercado was born in Fort Lewis, Washington in 1962. She earned her undergraduate degree in biology in 1984, and her doctor of medicine degree in 1988 from Atlanta's Emory University School of Medicine. She held an internship at Emory University Affiliated Hospitals, from 1988 to 1989, and completed her pediatric residency at Children's National Medical Center George Washington University in Washington, D.C., from 1989 to 1991. Dr. Mercado was in private practice in Chevy Chase, Maryland from 1991 to 1995 while serving as clinical professor/primary care preceptor at the George Washington University Medical Center, and from 1996 to 2002, she was a pediatrician at Atlanta's Lindbergh Children's Center, the Whiteford Elementary School Clinic, and the Coan Middle School Clinic.

Still early in her career, pediatrician Flavia Mercado, M.D, is already making her mark in the Atlanta medical community by helping to address the disconnect inherent in English-only health-care givers trying to treat non-English-speaking patients in distress. The need in the Atlanta area for doctors and staff who speak Spanish is well evident. Of the 4,449 babies delivered in 2001 at Grady Health System, the state's largest public hospital, more than 50 percent were born to Hispanic mothers. Experience at other facilities has shown that a bilingual staff is more efficient than reliance on interpreters, particularly in emergency departments, where minutes can make a life-sustaining difference. In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dr. Mercado acknowledged that although "it's likely there will never be enough bilingual staff for the entire system," promoting the idea where possible "is just one way to solve the problem and increase the services."

In 1999, Dr. Mercado was selected for the Leadership Fellowship Program of the National Hispanic Medical Association. She also was elected to serve on the Executive Board of Cool Girls, Incorporated, a mentorship and educational program for young girls from impoverished backgrounds. She serves on the steering committee of the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Mercado has served as associate director of the Department of Multicultural Affairs at Grady Health Systems and is a pediatrician at the Emergency Department of Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital. She is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, Lindbergh Children's Center.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

I feel lucky because I can't say I had any major obstacles in reaching my dream to be a physician. I had supportive parents who felt education is a priority and encouraged me to continue my education. I had good grades and determination. I was able to get many educational loans and a few scholarships. I attended a good college and medical school. A minor obstacle was being the first physician in my family. I was entering into a career choice that no one in my family could tell me the joys, challenges and sacrifices of being a physician.

How do I make a difference?

I will tell you a story about one of my families. There was a Colombian family who had a son who wasn't growing well and had asthma. His asthma made him sick often. After many medical visits, changes in medications and family asthma education and training the child's asthma came under control and the child began to grow. The mother and I figured out that the loss of appetite was his first sign of an impending asthma attack. Unfortunately the father lost his job and went to another state looking for work. The family soon followed. But after a few months they returned to Atlanta, mom reported not being able to find a pediatrician who gave her the care I had given her child. This story helps me realize that I make a difference in patients' lives. I strive to provide excellent quality health care in a sensitive caring environment each time I see a patient and his or her family. I also make a difference by teaching medical students and residents to be sensitive to others. I try to impress to them that we have strengths and limitations and if one is aware of these then you can be a better physician. I am also making a difference by educating others in the community about the barriers of limited English proficiency patients especially Hispanics/Latinos.

Who was my mentor?

Throughout my life, my mother has been my most influential mentor. Now as an adult and mother of two, I can truly appreciate the strength and wisdom she has. In 1961, she left her home in Puerto Rico as a young recently married army wife. She raised four children following her husband's army career in three continents. She faced many challenges in her life and always rose to the occasion. My mother is an inspiration to me. I hope I can be as good a role model for my kids as she has been to me. Dr. Veda Johnson has been a good role model for me. She is the medical director of two school clinics in Atlanta and is a national expert in school health. She has shown me that it is important to develop an expertise in an area and to be a spokesperson for your patients. Another individual I admire is Dr. Inginia Genao who is leading Grady Health System in becoming a culturally and linguistically appropriate health care system. Dr. Genao has been a wonderful colleague and friend and we both share the same passion to improve Hispanic/Latino health.How has my career evolved over time?

During my early years in medical school, my goal was to be a physician in private practice. In 1991 after completing my pediatric residency, I joined Brasch and Goldstein, a pediatric group, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Because I knew Spanish, I attracted bilingual clientele of 2 different types: families of foreign dignitaries (mostly from South America) and poor working immigrant Hispanic/Latino families (uninsured and usually undocumented). The common thread between these two classes of families was the need to speak to a physician in their own language and who knew their culture and beliefs. At the time I didn't know I was a bilingual-bicultural health care provider. This experience taught me the importance of delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate health care. When I moved to Atlanta in 1995, I decided to join a clinic that would serve Hispanic/Latino families. I became the first bilingual pediatrician at the Lindbergh Women and Children's Center, a neighborhood health center for Grady Health System (GHS). After working for a few years in this clinic I realized that I needed to be a better physician advocate for my patients and their families. This led me to join the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) and become one of their Hispanic Leadership fellows. This program prepared me for the position I have today. I am now the Associate Director of the Department of Multicultural Affairs at the Grady Health System in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a unique department that I helped to establish in 2002. Our mission is to make GHS a culturally and linguistically health care system. My present position has expanded my roles as a physician to include being a community leader, educator/teacher, hospital administrator, medical director and health care recruiter. I am not only advocating for better health care services for my Hispanic/Latino families as their pediatrician but also at the community, state and federal level. My career path has made me the Hispanic/Latino health expert I am today.