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HRSA's Espinosa Receives Presidential Honor

Diana Espinosa, Acting Administrator at HRSADecember 16, 2021

Acting HRSA Administrator and Miami native Diana Espinosa has been recognized by the White House for her extraordinary leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic -  and consistently high performance during a 30-year government career.

For her exceptional leadership of the agency during the nation's worst public health crisis in a century, HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa last week received the Presidential Distinguished Executive Award.

The rank is received by no more than one percent of all senior federal leaders for “exceptional performance over an extended period of time," according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Espinosa had served in the Administrator's Office for nearly a decade as a senior advisor or deputy to four different agency heads. Over the course of her career, she has served under six Presidential administrations.

Among other accomplishments during that tenure, she oversaw implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the $178 billion Provider Relief Fund (PRF).

The single largest infusion of funds in the agency's history, PRF has sustained hospitals, local providers and other health care professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus response, and paid claims for uninsured patient testing and treatment.

“It's an amazing award to receive, truly an honor," said the mother of two.

In a statement Thursday, former HRSA Administrator and co-endorser of her nomination Tom Engels said: “I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Diana."

Born in New Haven, CT, to an Italian immigrant dad who was a department store tailor and a Cuban mom who worked in a pocketbook factory, Espinosa grew up in Florida – where her mother moved after her parents separated.

Her mother, Diana Rubi, rose from purse-maker to bank teller, bookkeeper and office manager at the exclusive La Gorce Country Club  – where Espinosa got her start in finance while still in high school, keeping tabs on the food and beverage receipts of South Florida golfers.

The University of Michigan grad began her federal career as a Presidential Management Intern in the same class as future BPHC Associate Administrator Jim Macrae.

In the Agency for Children and Families, Espinosa served as project officer for youth programs, before returning to Florida two years later to be closer to her mother and younger brother.

She arrived in Miami and the Dade County Transit shop a month before Hurricane Andrew decimated the region in 1992 – then moved to the Miami-Dade Office of Management and Budget just in time to take part in an historic restructuring of County government.

Espinosa returned to the DC area six years later to take a position in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), working on the HHS portfolio and then on government-wide issues as Deputy Assistant Director for Management until 2007.

Arriving at HRSA that fall, she became Deputy Associate Administrator of the Bureau of Health Professions (now the Bureau of Health Workforce) as enormous change loomed just over the horizon.

“Looking back over my entire career," Espinosa said, “I always have been involved somehow in major change. It's not anything I planned, I just kept falling into it … After a while, you just get used to major challenges and occasional crisis."

Together, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009)  and the Affordable Care Act (2010) provided new resources for the bureau's workforce training programs; reauthorized most existing ones; and created several new ones.

So why HRSA?

“The people," Espinosa said. “I had never worked in a place where you encounter such nice, caring people, and I think that's even more true today. Everyone here is just happy to help you out, to pitch in to get a job done … They come from all walks of life, with the most interesting backgrounds.

“I think there's just something about the mission that draws us all here."

In her limited time off, Espinosa is a devoted soccer mom, spending most Saturdays at 17-year-old son Alex's games and chatting on the phone with daughter Isabel, a sophomore at the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

She lives in Rockville, MD.

Date Last Reviewed:  December 2021