She received a BA from Yale and her MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
She is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and practices primary care medicine as a general internist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General.
The violence and political turmoil of Argentina in the 1970s forced Alicia Fernandez and her family to flee to the United States, leaving behind what’s known as the Dirty War, a seven-year campaign that targeted suspected left-wing dissidents. She and her family immigrated to New York City.
Fernandez’s passion for social justice began with that early experience. It strengthened after college, when she worked as an activist for immigrant populations and with those affected by HIV/AIDS. She also realized that becoming a physician could give her valuable tools for helping give underrepresented people a voice in determining their health. Throughout her career as a practicing general internist, she has worked to increase diversity at UCSF, to encourage physician-researchers who care about underserved populations and to study and implement changes that will reduce cultural and language barriers to chronic disease care.
In the mid-1990s, while an internal medicine resident at UCSF, Fernandez happened to see a public service announcement on television entitled, “HIV Stops with Me,” which projected how HIV-positive victims were taking it upon themselves to prevent the spread of the disease within their community. This galvanized her views on vulnerable populations and disparities in care.
Fernandez has retained that perspective throughout her life’s mission to improve the health of Latinos and vulnerable patients in general. In one of her current projects, a campaign called “Diabetes Stops with Me,” Latino parents and grandparents are encouraged to lessen the chances that their children and grandchildren – who have an increased biological risk of developing diabetes – will develop the disease. Her campaign hopes to play an important role in stopping the intergenerational transmission of the disease.
A member of the UCSF Academy of Medical Educators, she received the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Professorship for Humanism in Medicine (2009-2013). She directs UCSF PROF-PATH (NIMHD R25 MD006832), an academic career and research training program for URM students and students focused on health disparities research; is co-PI of RISE (NHLBI R25HL126146), a national training program in implementation science for URM faculty; and core-PI of SF BUILD (U54MD009523) a joint capacity building program between UCSF and San Francisco State University. Dr. Fernandez has served as an advisor to many organizations on health disparities related projects, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Endowment, the National Quality Forum, the Commonwealth Fund, the American Medical Association, and the American Board of Internal Medicine. She has also been appointed to the Board of Governors of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and the National Academy of Science Roundtable on Health Literacy and has served on both since 2014. At UCSF, she has also served as leader in the Differences Matter initiative for health equity since 2015.
Beck AL, Fernandez A, Rojina J, Cabana M. Randomized Controlled Trial of a Clinic-Based Intervention to Promote Healthy Beverage Consumption Among Latino Children. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2017 Aug; 56(9):838-844. PMID: 28553726.
Fernández A, Quan J, Moffet H, Parker MM, Schillinger D, Karter AJ. Adherence to Newly Prescribed Diabetes Medications Among Insured Latino and White Patients with Diabetes. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Mar 01; 177(3):371-379. PMID: 28114642.
Parker MM, Fernández A, Moffet HH, Grant RW, Torreblanca A, Karter AJ. Association of Patient-Physician Language Concordance and Glycemic Control for Limited-English Proficiency Latinos With Type 2 Diabetes. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Mar 01; 177(3):380-387. PMID: 28114680.
Konfino J, Fernandez A, Penko J, Mason A, Martinez E, Coxson P, Heller D, Moran A, Bibbins-Domingo K, Pérez-Stable EJ, Mejía R. Comparing Strategies for Lipid Lowering in Argentina: An Analysis from the CVD Policy Model-Argentina. J Gen Intern Med. 2017 May; 32(5):524-533. PMID: 27853916.
Sánchez-Romero LM, Penko J, Coxson PG, Fernández A, Mason A, Moran AE, Ávila-Burgos L, Odden M, Barquera S, Bibbins-Domingo K. Projected Impact of Mexico's Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Policy on Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: A Modeling Study. PLoS Med. 2016 Nov; 13(11):e1002158. PMID: 27802278.
Chaufan C, Karter AJ, Moffet HH, Quan J, Parker MM, Kruger J, Schillinger D, Fernandez A. Identifying Spanish Language Competent Physicians: The Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE). Ethn Dis. 2016 Oct 20; 26(4):537-544. PMID: 27773981.
Young CA, Stookey J, Patel AI, Chan C, Evans J, Cohn K, Agana L, Yen IH, Fernandez A, Cabana MD. San Francisco childcare centers' preparedness in the prevention and management of asthma among preschool-aged children. J Asthma. 2016 09; 53(7):691-8. PMID: 27164036.
Ngai KM, Grudzen CR, Lee R, Tong VY, Richardson LD, Fernandez A. The Association Between Limited English Proficiency and Unplanned Emergency Department Revisit Within 72 Hours. Ann Emerg Med. 2016 Aug; 68(2):213-21. PMID: 27033142; PMCID: PMC4958500 [Available on 08/01/17].
Paul-Emile K, Smith AK, Lo B, Fernández A. Dealing with Racist Patients. N Engl J Med. 2016 Feb 25; 374(8):708-11. PMID: 26933847.
Fernández A, Pérez-Stable EJ. ¿Doctor, habla español? Increasing the Supply and Quality of Language-Concordant Physicians for Spanish-Speaking Patients. J Gen Intern Med. 2015 Oct; 30(10):1394-6. PMID: 26209178; PMCID: PMC4579210 [Available on 10/01/16].
Chaufan C, Fielding H, Chesla C, Fernandez A. Research in the Sociology of Health Care. "It's not the doctor - it's me." How self-blame obscures language and other structural barriers to diabetes care mong low-income Latinos with limited English Proficiency. 2015; 187-208.
Young CA, Chan C, Stookey J, Patel AI, Evans J, Cohn K, Agana L, Yen IH, Fernandez A, Cabana MD. Development of a Tool to Evaluate Asthma Preparedness and Management in Child-Care Centers. Pediatr Allergy Immunol Pulmonol. 2015 Jun 01; 28(2):121-128. PMID: 26155370.
Jih J, Vittinghoff E, Fernandez A. Patient-physician language concordance and use of preventive care services among limited English proficient Latinos and Asians. Public Health Rep. 2015 Mar-Apr; 130(2):134-42. PMID: 25729102; PMCID: PMC4315854.
Tang AS, Kruger JF, Quan J, Fernandez A. From admission to discharge: patterns of interpreter use among resident physicians caring for hospitalized patients with limited english proficiency. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2014 Nov; 25(4):1784-98. PMID: 25418242.
Seligman R, Mendenhall E, Valdovinos MD, Fernandez A, Jacobs EA. Self-care and Subjectivity among Mexican Diabetes Patients in the United States. Med Anthropol Q. 2015 Mar; 29(1):61-79. PMID: 24942832.
Gandhi M, Fernandez A, Stoff DM, Narahari S, Blank M, Fuchs J, Evans CH, Kahn JS, Johnson MO. Development and implementation of a workshop to enhance the effectiveness of mentors working with diverse mentees in HIV research. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2014 Aug; 30(8):730-7. PMID: 24735004; PMCID: PMC4118696.
Iten AE, Jacobs EA, Lahiff M, Fernández A. Undocumented immigration status and diabetes care among Mexican immigrants in two immigration "sanctuary" areas. J Immigr Minor Health. 2014 Apr; 16(2):229-38. PMID: 23114690.
Naranjo DM, Jacobs EA, Fisher L, Hessler D, Fernandez A. Age and glycemic control among low-income Latinos. J Immigr Minor Health. 2013 Oct; 15(5):898-902. PMID: 22843322.
Hudson DL, Karter AJ, Fernandez A, Parker M, Adams AS, Schillinger D, Moffet HH, Zhou J, Adler NE. Differences in the clinical recognition of depression in diabetes patients: the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE). Am J Manag Care. 2013 May; 19(5):344-52. PMID: 23781889; PMCID: PMC3703822.
Davis E, Tamayo A, Fernandez A. "Because somebody cared about me. That's how it changed things": homeless, chronically ill patients' perspectives on case management. PLoS One. 2012; 7(9):e45980. PMID: 23029350; PMCID: PMC3461032.
Seligman HK, Fernandez A, Stern RJ, Weech-Maldonado R, Quan J, Jacobs EA. Risk factors for reporting poor cultural competency among patients with diabetes in safety net clinics. Med Care. 2012 Sep; 50(9 Suppl 2):S56-61. PMID: 22895232; PMCID: PMC3466108.
Slean GR, Jacobs EA, Lahiff M, Fisher L, Fernandez A. Aspects of culturally competent care are associated with less emotional burden among patients with diabetes. Med Care. 2012 Sep; 50(9 Suppl 2):S69-73. PMID: 22895234.
Stern RJ, Fernandez A, Jacobs EA, Neilands TB, Weech-Maldonado R, Quan J, Carle A, Seligman HK. Advances in measuring culturally competent care: a confirmatory factor analysis of CAHPS-CC in a safety-net population. Med Care. 2012 Sep; 50(9 Suppl 2):S49-55. PMID: 22895231; PMCID: PMC3466106.
Mendenhall E, Fernandez A, Adler N, Jacobs EA. Susto, coraje, and abuse: depression and beliefs about diabetes. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2012 Sep; 36(3):480-92. PMID: 22539060.
Fernandez A, Seligman H, Quan J, Stern RJ, Jacobs EA. Associations between aspects of culturally competent care and clinical outcomes among patients with diabetes. Med Care. 2012 Sep; 50(9 Suppl 2):S74-9. PMID: 22895235.
Schenker Y, Fernandez A, Kerr K, O'Riordan D, Pantilat SZ. Interpretation for discussions about end-of-life issues: results from a National Survey of Health Care Interpreters. J Palliat Med. 2012 Sep; 15(9):1019-26. PMID: 22788909; PMCID: PMC3422051.
Reuland DS, Ko LK, Fernandez A, Braswell LC, Pignone M. Testing a Spanish-language colorectal cancer screening decision aid in Latinos with limited English proficiency: results from a pre-post trial and four month follow-up survey. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2012 Jun 12; 12:53. PMID: 22691191; PMCID: PMC3483183.
Lynch EB, Fernandez A, Lighthouse N, Mendenhall E, Jacobs E. Concepts of diabetes self-management in Mexican American and African American low-income patients with diabetes. Health Educ Res. 2012 Oct; 27(5):814-24. PMID: 22641792.
Reuland DS, Slatt LM, Alemán MA, Fernandez A, Dewalt D. Effect of Spanish language immersion rotations on medical student Spanish fluency. Fam Med. 2012 Feb; 44(2):110-6. PMID: 22328477.
Seligman HK, Jacobs EA, López A, Tschann J, Fernandez A. Food insecurity and glycemic control among low-income patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2012 Feb; 35(2):233-8. PMID: 22210570; PMCID: PMC3263865.
Schenker Y, Smith AK, Arnold RM, Fernandez A. "Her husband doesn't speak much English": conducting a family meeting with an interpreter. J Palliat Med. 2012 Apr; 15(4):494-8. PMID: 22107068; PMCID: PMC3647542.
Vijayaraghavan M, Jacobs EA, Seligman H, Fernandez A. The association between housing instability, food insecurity, and diabetes self-efficacy in low-income adults. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2011 Nov; 22(4):1279-91. PMID: 22080709.
Parker MM, Moffet HH, Schillinger D, Adler N, Fernandez A, Ciechanowski P, Karter AJ. Ethnic differences in appointment-keeping and implications for the patient-centered medical home--findings from the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE). Health Serv Res. 2012 Apr; 47(2):572-93. PMID: 22091785; PMCID: PMC3290714.
Seligman HK, Jacobs EA, Lopez A, Sarkar U, Tschann J, Fernandez A. Food insecurity and hypoglycemia among safety net patients with diabetes. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Jul 11; 171(13):1204-6. PMID: 21747017; PMCID: PMC4230711.
Moffet HH, Parker MM, Sarkar U, Schillinger D, Fernandez A, Adler NE, Adams AS, Karter AJ. Adherence to laboratory test requests by patients with diabetes: the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE). Am J Manag Care. 2011 May; 17(5):339-44. PMID: 21718081; PMCID: PMC3189790.
Guendelman S, Fernandez A, Thornton D, Brindis C. Birthplace, language use, and body size among Mexican American women and men: findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2006. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2011 May; 22(2):590-605. PMID: 21551936.
Rosenthal A, Wang F, Schillinger D, Pérez Stable EJ, Fernandez A. Accuracy of physician self-report of Spanish language proficiency. J Immigr Minor Health. 2011 Apr; 13(2):239-43. PMID: 20151191; PMCID: PMC3056130.
Wang S, Quan J, Kanaya AM, Fernandez A. Asian Americans and obesity in California: a protective effect of biculturalism. J Immigr Minor Health. 2011 Apr; 13(2):276-83. PMID: 21153765; PMCID: PMC3056137.
Fernandez A, Ettinger KM, Lo B. Case 34-2010: A woman with an incorrect operation. N Engl J Med. 2011 Mar 03; 364(9):883; author reply 883. PMID: 21366488.
Hauer KE, Fernandez A, Teherani A, Boscardin CK, Saba GW. Assessment of medical students' shared decision-making in standardized patient encounters. J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Apr; 26(4):367-72. PMID: 21108048; PMCID: PMC3055961.
Fernandez A, Schillinger D, Warton EM, Adler N, Moffet HH, Schenker Y, Salgado MV, Ahmed A, Karter AJ. Language barriers, physician-patient language concordance, and glycemic control among insured Latinos with diabetes: the Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE). J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Feb; 26(2):170-6. PMID: 20878497; PMCID: PMC3019330.
Fernandez A. Improving the quality of informed consent: it is not all about the risks. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Sep 07; 153(5):342-3. PMID: 20820045.
Hauer KE, Boscardin C, Gesundheit N, Nevins A, Srinivasan M, Fernandez A. Impact of student ethnicity and patient-centredness on communication skills performance. Med Educ. 2010 Jul; 44(7):653-61. PMID: 20636584.
Prakash S, Rodriguez RA, Austin PC, Saskin R, Fernandez A, Moist LM, O'Hare AM. Racial composition of residential areas associates with access to pre-ESRD nephrology care. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010 Jul; 21(7):1192-9. PMID: 20558541; PMCID: PMC3152235.
Mendenhall E, Seligman RA, Fernandez A, Jacobs EA. Speaking through diabetes: Rethinking the significance of lay discourses on diabetes. Med Anthropol Q. 2010 Jun; 24(2):220-39. PMID: 20550094.
Ross PT, Wiley Cené C, Bussey-Jones J, Brown AF, Blackman D, Fernández A, Fernández L, Glick SB, Horowitz CR, Jacobs EA, Peek ME, Wilkerson L, Lypson ML. A strategy for improving health disparities education in medicine. J Gen Intern Med. 2010 May; 25 Suppl 2:S160-3. PMID: 20352512; PMCID: PMC2847114.
Glick SB, Fernandez L, Irby DM, Harleman E, Fernandez A. Teaching about health care disparities in the clinical setting. J Gen Intern Med. 2010 May; 25 Suppl 2:S95-101. PMID: 20352501; PMCID: PMC2847100.
Schenker Y, Fernandez A, Sudore R, Schillinger D. Interventions to improve patient comprehension in informed consent for medical and surgical procedures: a systematic review. Med Decis Making. 2011 Jan-Feb; 31(1):151-73. PMID: 20357225.
Schenker Y, Karter AJ, Schillinger D, Warton EM, Adler NE, Moffet HH, Ahmed AT, Fernandez A. The impact of limited English proficiency and physician language concordance on reports of clinical interactions among patients with diabetes: the DISTANCE study. Patient Educ Couns. 2010 Nov; 81(2):222-8. PMID: 20223615; PMCID: PMC2907435.
Fernandez A, Schenker Y. Time to establish national standards and certification for health care interpreters. Patient Educ Couns. 2010 Feb; 78(2):139-40. PMID: 20117487.
Schenker Y, Fernandez A, Lo B. Placebo prescriptions are missed opportunities for doctor-patient communication. Am J Bioeth. 2009 Dec; 9(12):48-50. PMID: 20013500.
Reuland DS, Frasier PY, Olson MD, Slatt LM, Aleman MA, Fernandez A. Accuracy of self-assessed Spanish fluency in medical students. Teach Learn Med. 2009 Oct; 21(4):305-9. PMID: 20183357.
Meyers K, Tang G, Fernandez A. Responding to the Language Challenge: Kaiser Permanente's Approach. Perm J. 2009; 13(3):77-83. PMID: 20740094; PMCID: PMC2911813.
Diamond LC, Schenker Y, Curry L, Bradley EH, Fernandez A. Getting by: underuse of interpreters by resident physicians. J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Feb; 24(2):256-62. PMID: 19089503; PMCID: PMC2628994.
Schenker Y, Lo B, Ettinger KM, Fernandez A. Navigating language barriers under difficult circumstances. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Aug 19; 149(4):264-9. PMID: 18711157.
Grubbs V, Bibbins-Domingo K, Fernandez A, Chattopadhyay A, Bindman AB. Acute myocardial infarction length of stay and hospital mortality are not associated with language preference. J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Feb; 23(2):190-4. PMID: 18043984; PMCID: PMC2359166.
Smith WR, Betancourt JR, Wynia MK, Bussey-Jones J, Stone VE, Phillips CO, Fernandez A, Jacobs E, Bowles J. Recommendations for teaching about racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Nov 06; 147(9):654-65. PMID: 17975188.
Schenker Y, Wang F, Selig SJ, Ng R, Fernandez A. The impact of language barriers on documentation of informed consent at a hospital with on-site interpreter services. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Nov; 22 Suppl 2:294-9. PMID: 17957414; PMCID: PMC2078548.
Saha S, Fernandez A. Language barriers in health care. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Nov; 22 Suppl 2:281-2. PMID: 17924172; PMCID: PMC2078543.
Saha S, Fernandez A, Perez-Stable E. Reducing language barriers and racial/ethnic disparities in health care: an investment in our future. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Nov; 22 Suppl 2:371-2. PMID: 17896164; PMCID: PMC2040485.
Bibbins-Domingo K, Fernandez A. BiDil for heart failure in black patients. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Aug 07; 147(3):214-5; author reply 215-6. PMID: 17679712.
Bibbins-Domingo K, Fernandez A. BiDil for heart failure in black patients: implications of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Jan 02; 146(1):52-6. PMID: 17200222.
Grubbs V, Chen AH, Bindman AB, Vittinghoff E, Fernandez A. Effect of awareness of language law on language access in the health care setting. J Gen Intern Med. 2006 Jul; 21(7):683-8. PMID: 16808766; PMCID: PMC1924696.
Saba GW, Wong ST, Schillinger D, Fernandez A, Somkin CP, Wilson CC, Grumbach K. Shared decision making and the experience of partnership in primary care. Ann Fam Med. 2006 Jan-Feb; 4(1):54-62. PMID: 16449397; PMCID: PMC1466999.
Wilson E, Chen AH, Grumbach K, Wang F, Fernandez A. Effects of limited English proficiency and physician language on health care comprehension. J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Sep; 20(9):800-6. PMID: 16117746; PMCID: PMC1490205.
Bodenheimer T, Fernandez A. High and rising health care costs. Part 4: can costs be controlled while preserving quality? Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jul 05; 143(1):26-31. PMID: 15998752.
Pletcher MJ, Fernandez A, May TA, Westphal JR, Gamez CA, Hersh DF, Gonzales R. Unintended consequences of a quality improvement program designed to improve treatment of alcohol withdrawal in hospitalized patients. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2005 Mar; 31(3):148-57. PMID: 15828598.
Fernandez A, Goldstein L. Primary care physicians who treat blacks and whites. N Engl J Med. 2004 Nov 11; 351(20):2126-7; author reply 2126-7. PMID: 15543658.
Fernandez A, Schillinger D, Grumbach K, Rosenthal A, Stewart AL, Wang F, Pérez-Stable EJ. Physician language ability and cultural competence. An exploratory study of communication with Spanish-speaking patients. J Gen Intern Med. 2004 Feb; 19(2):167-74. PMID: 15009796; PMCID: PMC1492135.
Pontecorvo C, Mejía R, Aleman M, Vidal A, Majdalani MP, Fayanás R, Fernández A, Pérez Stable EJ. [Detection of domestic violence against women. Survey in a primary health care clinic]. Medicina (B Aires). 2004; 64(6):492-6. PMID: 15637825.
Pignone M, Phillips CJ, Elasy TA, Fernandez A. Physicians' ability to predict the risk of coronary heart disease. BMC Health Serv Res. 2003 Jul 11; 3(1):13. PMID: 12857356; PMCID: PMC183837.
Majdalani M, Mejia R, Fayanas R, Fernandez A, Perez-Stable EJ.Educacion Medica. Residentes de primer ano de Medicina Interna: distribucion horaria de las tareas. 2003; 13(49):15-19.
Fernandez A, Grumbach K, Vranizan K, Osmond DH, Bindman AB. Primary care physicians' experience with disease management programs. J Gen Intern Med. 2001 Mar; 16(3):163-7. PMID: 11318911; PMCID: PMC1495185.
Fernandez A, Grumbach K, Goitein L, Vranizan K, Osmond DH, Bindman AB. Friend or foe? How primary care physicians perceive hospitalists. Arch Intern Med. 2000 Oct 23; 160(19):2902-8. PMID: 11041896.
Schillinger D, Wheeler M, Fernandez A. The populations and quality improvement seminar for medical residents. Acad Med. 2000 May; 75(5):562-3. PMID: 10824850.
Mejia R, Aleman M, Férnandez A, Pérez Stable EJ. [Awareness and detection of domestic violence by clinical physicians]. Medicina (B Aires). 2000; 60(5 Pt 1):591-4. PMID: 11188898.
Fernandez A. Heart Failure. Anticoagulation in Patients with Heart Failure and Atrial Fibrillation. 1997; 1:36-42.