County honors Stars of Essex at Latino heritage celebration

Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., center, congratulates the 2021 Estrella del Condado de Essex Award winners Raul Malave, left, and Dr. Hortensia Kelly.

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. hosted the county’s annual Latino heritage celebration on Monday, Oct. 4, in the Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building in Newark. The spirited celebration paid homage to the rich culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to the Spanish-speaking nations of Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

During the program, DiVincenzo presented the county’s 2021 Estrella del Condado de Essex Awards, of Stars of Essex County Awards, to Dr. Hortensia Kelly and Raul Malave. Kelly is the Newark Board of Education physician, medical consultant for the state of New Jersey and president of Dr. Hortensia Kelly Medical Services LLC. Malave is assistant director of public safety with the city of Newark.

“We are honored to recognize Dr. Hortensia Kelly and Raul Malave for their commitment to improving the lives of all residents, their leadership and their dedication to public service,” DiVincenzo said. “Our cultural celebrations give us an opportunity to honor and recognize the diversity of Essex County and learn about the heritage of our constituents.”

Malave, a native of Newark’s North Ward, knew he was destined to become a public safety servant when, at age 7, his family’s Summer Avenue home caught on fire. He was astonished by the well-coordinated efforts and dedication of responding police and fire personnel. When he wasn’t immediately called by the fire department, Malave applied for the position of police officer; but in 1995, his dream became a reality when he received the call to serve as one of “Newark’s bravest.”

Over the years, he rose through the ranks from serving as an entry-level firefighter to fire captain. In November 2010, he became the first Hispanic Newark Fire Division battalion chief. He also served as the executive officer for both the fire director’s and fire chief’s offices. There, he became adept in managing the administrative affairs of the agency, encompassing budget preparation, recruitment and training, discipline, short- and long-term strategic planning, apparatus and equipment acquisition, and community outreach programming. In September 2016, Malave was promoted to the rank of deputy chief, again becoming the first Hispanic to hold this rank in the department’s history.

In January 2016, Malave was assigned as assistant director of the Newark Department of Public Safety. In this role, he assists in providing executive oversight to the Police Division, Fire Division, and Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. Malave has applied his experience and vision toward implementing shared services throughout the department by harnessing the best practices of all three disciplines, thereby creating greater efficiencies and enhancing the ongoing success of the department.

In late April 2020, Mayor Ras J. Baraka entrusted Malave with developing and overseeing all of Newark’s COVID-19 testing sites. Malave and his team quickly contracted with more than five testing companies to expand the city’s COVID-19 locations to more than 20 sites, encompassing all five wards in the city. He also set up a city identification card remote station to assist the city’s undocumented residents with gaining access to testing. To date, the city has administered more than 30,000 vaccines to residents.

“Thank you for this amazing award. I am floored to have such an honor given to me. It is true, we had a fire in the house and it was a terrible day. But I was able to see the firefighters in action; they rescued me and my family and they went above and beyond to comfort us. From that day there was a seed planted in me to become a firefighter,” Malave said. “None of us got to where we are today without getting help from someone else; I have many people to be thankful for. Because of this, we should be good role models to children and other employees since we didn’t get here by ourselves.”

Kelly was born in Cuba, where she began her journey into the field of medicine before immigrating to the United States. Her family settled in Newark, where she worked as a pharmacist assistant while attending Barringer High School. Kelly pursued her passion for medicine and its impact on culture and societal development by completing a double major in anthropology and biology from Rutgers University, while simultaneously interning as a medical research assistant for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in 2002 from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, N.Y. Her experiences as a resident physician of internal and family medicine have been at various hospitals throughout Essex County, including Newark Beth Israel, Mountainside, UMDNJ and St. Barnabas Medical Center, as well as Barnet Hospital in Paterson and St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, N.Y. 

In 2008, Kelly completed her educational journey and began practicing as a family medicine physician for her alma mater, Rutgers. She went on to become medical director for Bergen County’s Department of Corrections Health Services, where she developed and implemented policies and procedures and oversaw all training and continuing education for the county’s correctional health care staff. Kelly has worked as one of the few bilingual medical consultants for the New Jersey Office of Disability Benefits, while balancing the responsibilities of her private practice in Newark. She was given the opportunity by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka to serve the residents of Newark as medical director of the Mary Eliza Mahoney Health Center during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In that role, she implemented COVID-19 vaccination and testing protocols for the city and coordinated the continuous delivery of medical services to the city’s pediatric population, pregnant women, homebound patients, low-income individuals, and those with no income and/or no addresses.

Throughout the years, she has taken her passion for holistic approaches to medicine international by participating in various medical missions to South America, the Caribbean, India and Africa, including most recently the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ghana. She has received recognition for her work and service to the city from numerous Essex County Hispanic organizations, having been named International Doctor of the Year and The Hispanic Women Society Professional of the Year. She is an active member of the NAACP. She is one of the few doctors in Essex County who practice addiction medicine recovery from a private office setting. Kelly strives to encourage her patients to achieve optimal wellness through nutritional means and lifestyle modifications.

“I learned a lot about giving back at a young age from my mother and father,” Kelly said. She recounted a story from when she had an asthma attack at a young age and her parents could not afford to pay the doctor for the office visit; taking the elevator on the way out, a woman said her son also had asthma and offered the inhaler to her. “This event shaped my life and is the reason I became a doctor.” 

The Rev. Pablo Pizarro of Temple Rock Church in Newark delivered the program’s invocation. Entertainment was provided by the Arts High School Latin Band, under the direction of Kennis Fairfax.