On Daily Rituals: I am Brazilian, and good coffee is a very important part my day. It provides moments when I take stock. Then, at the end of each day, I have a transition time when I disconnect from work. I do not continue work tasks at home in the evening; I do them the next day. I didn’t always have those boundaries, but one of the benefits of aging is reflection and perspective. All that I do is just a little speck in the universe, and you have to leave room—for others, for regrouping, for having a little bit of “Yes!”
On Career: I first came to New York in 1982 to study medical anthropology, and I got an internship in the South Bronx, which was pretty burnt-out back then. I worked at a detox center that used acupuncture to help people with substance addiction. When I was there, women started pouring in at a higher rate than anyone had seen before, and it was because of crack. The “aha” moment in my life was when we realized that we needed to tailor detox programs differently to men and to women, and I developed an awareness of gender and how it could shape different approaches.
I was running programs at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis when the board asked me to become the executive director. The organization was in crisis, literally—we were in deep financial debt. My best friend said, “Are you crazy? Don’t do it! Too much debt, too much work. You’re a woman, and this is a gay men’s crisis.” No woman had ever been the executive director before, and it went against the grain. But then I talked to the staff, and they convinced me to take the leap. One of my peers said, “I would work for you any day. Let’s do this.” We had no assets except for the people, but we did it: We paid the debt, and we grew the organization again. But what I’m most proud of is that I was able to listen. I wasn’t shy about doing my part, because I knew that the staff would do theirs.