Skip to Content
HSF Alumni

Elisa Espitia

  • Gender: Female
  • University: The University of Texas at Austin
  • University: California State University - Fresno
  • Undergraduate Degree: Linguistics and French
  • Graduate Degree: Communicative Disorders, with distinction in Speech Language Pathology
  • Hometown: Palmdale
  • State: California
  • Company: Los Angeles County Department of Health Services: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
  • Position: Senior Speech Language Pathologist

Born and raised in Southern California, Elisa Espitia had to forge her own path toward a higher education. Her parents, originally from Mexico, ended their formal education after elementary school and were thus unable to assist her in navigating the college application process. So, it was up to her to improvise in finding the tools and guidance she would need, in order to go to college.

“I was fortunate enough,” she said, “to have teachers and coaches my entire life who took interest in helping me pursue higher education.” With their help, especially from her “very dear” high school French teacher, she was able to successfully complete the application, scholarship, and financial aid processes.

She earned the distinction of graduating from her high school as valedictorian, and was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She says her scholarship “meant absolutely everything,” allowing her to attend college out-of-state and pursue a graduate degree. She is also an HSF alum.

Elisa studied at The University of Texas at Austin, and recalls how she initially struggled with the academic complexity of her courses, and a nagging sense that she was underprepared compared to her peers, despite her previous academic success back home.

But she pressed on, reaching out for the social and academic support she needed in order to thrive. Her tenacity was rewarded, as she went on to graduate with a BA in both Linguistics and French for which she received special honors. She came back to California and enrolled in graduate school at California State University, Fresno, where she earned a master’s degree in Communicative Disorders – Speech and Language Pathology, graduating with distinction.

Her passion for equitable treatment for the “traditionally underserved in healthcare” led her to public service and helping to establish a hospital speech therapy department in Southern California that facilitates the provision of speech therapy services for Spanish speakers previously unable to access those services at the hospital.

Today, she works as a Senior Speech Language Pathologist for Los Angeles County Health Services at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. In this role, she provides assessments and treatments to adults and children with complex speech, language, cognition, voice, and swallowing disorders, and manages head and neck cancer patients.

Outside of work, she has volunteered as a speech pathologist in Mexico, and mentors graduate speech therapy students. She also hopes to be able to work with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health to promote healthcare equity.

Elisa has also given back to HSF, serving as a volunteer at an HSF Scholar Conference. She believes that HSF is contributing to the future of the US by “helping mold exceptional and highly motivated Latinos to change the world through work and contributions in their respective fields.”

She encourages those about to embark on a professional career to take chances and push forward. “Get involved in organizations or projects that develop leadership skills,” she said, “so that you can effectively influence and inspire people to make great things happen!”