2020 Great Immigrants Recipient

Ramon Tallaj
Physician; Founder and Chair, SOMOS
Born in:
Dominican Republic

Ramon Tallaj grew up in the Dominican Republic. His family was large (he is the older brother to five sisters) and of modest means, and he often found himself studying by candlelight. After losing his eight-year-old cousin to leukemia, Tallaj determined to become a doctor. After graduating from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Tallaj quickly achieved success as a physician. He also served in a number of government positions, including as undersecretary of public health and social service. Tallaj could have become the Dominican Republic’s minister of health, but he answered a call by the cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York to provide medical care to the city’s Latino and other underserved communities.

Tallaj moved to New York City in 1991 to train at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, and established his internal medicine practice in Washington Heights in 1997. In 2015, he founded SOMOS (“We Are” in Spanish), a network of more than 2,500 health providers serving 700,000 Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries. Tallaj, who is chairman of the board at SOMOS, has been active in calling attention to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income and immigrant communities. SOMOS has also tested more than 50,000 people at its multilingual coronavirus testing sites throughout the city, an initiative being expanded in partnership with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As chairman of the board of Corinthian Medical IPA, a network of over 1,200 physicians, Tallaj has championed the pay-for-performance model in New York State as a way to improve health outcomes while saving government funds by enhancing preventive and chronic care management.

Tallaj has led multiple health care missions to the Caribbean in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and established a foundation to provide scholarships to Dominican/Latino students who are planning to work in health care and public service. “I never forget,” he has said, “that I was privileged to get my medical degree. Therefore, creating that opportunity for other people is important.” Tallaj’s honors include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the United Hospital Fund’s Excellence in Health Care Award.