Gabriel Rincón, DDS, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, is the recipient of the 2017 Ohtli Award, one of the highest distinctions given by the Government of Mexico to distinguished Mexicans who live abroad. Ohtli is a Nahuatl word that means “pathway,” or camino, in Spanish.
The award was presented during the Cinco de Mayo festivities in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall by Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering, Consul General of Mexico to New York City, on behalf of President Enrique Peña Nieto. The award acknowledges Dr. Rincón’s altruistic activities that promote the wellbeing of fellow Mexicans by helping “forge a new path” for their countrymen and women. Previous Ohtli Award winners include Hilda Solis, who served in the Obama cabinet as secretary of labor; Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor; and Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers.
Born in Puebla, Mexico, Dr. Rincón first came to the United States as a visitor after graduating from high school in 1972. The teenager overstayed and was deported after nearly two years working as a dishwasher in New York City. Back in Mexico, he worked to get an education, attending Universidad Autonoma de Puebla and earned a degree in dentistry in 1981. He did community service for a year at a Nicaraguan hospital before establishing a dental practice in Mexico.
Dr. Rincón returned to New York and worked various jobs until he was accepted at the NYU College of Dentistry, where he received his degree in dental science in 1991. It was during a fellowship in oral surgery at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and his encounters with patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) that began his life of community service.
He opened a dental practice in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in 1993 and began going into the community to talk about prevention of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and lead poisoning. In 2000, he founded Mixteca, a not-for-profit organization that provides new Mexican and Latino immigrants easy access to social and health services, as well as educational and job training opportunities. For the more than two decades, Dr. Rincón has been a volunteer for NYU Lutheran Medical Center and the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone.
“Dr. Rincón is a valued member of the Family Health Centers team. He is a longtime advocate for community health and is a true warrior for better health outcomes for everyone, but particularly for our immigrant population,” says Larry K. McReynolds, executive director of the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone and senior vice president of community health at NYU Langone. “He is most deserving of this high honor bestowed by the government of Mexico.”
Dr. Rincón is an active member of the Sunset Park Lions Club, the Sunset Park Health Council, and the Mexican American Societies. In addition to the Ohtli Award, he has been recognized by many service organizations for his contributions to the health and welfare of immigrants, New Yorkers, and other nationals. In 2011, he received the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader Award.
“When I began my dental practice and started working on various community activities, the motivation was to help new immigrants because I once walked in their shoes. I had no expectation of recognition or awards,” Dr. Rincón says. “It has always been about the work, which has been fulfilling and extremely gratifying.”
His most recent endeavor is Para Mujeres Emprendedoras to support women entrepreneurs and help bridge the gender gap in business.