Program hopes to attract Latino medical professionals
According to the United States Census, over the next 30 years Latinos will experience the second fastest population growth rate in the nation, after Asians. Yet while this group is expected to boom, the number of Latinos in the medical field remains low.
To address that need, Raul DeLa Cadena and representatives from across the Health Sciences Campus recently offered a group of Latino high school students an opportunity to learn about opportunities in health care. The group, from Westgrove, Pa. — about 40 miles west of Philadelphia — toured Temple’s new Medical Education and Research Building and met with administrators and bilingual medical students.
“Only about 3-4 percent of health care professionals are Latino,” said DeLa Cadena, assistant dean of the School of Medicine’s Recruitment, Admissions and Retention Program (RAR). “Emerging majority groups, namely African-American and Latino groups are underrepresented in medical fields, but the number of Latinos is by far one of the lowest.”
With this population growing, the need for more Latino doctors is clear; studies have shown that when given the choice, minority patients are more likely to choose someone of their own racial or ethnic background. Yet language and lack of information remain barriers for Latino students seeking higher education, said DeLa Cadena, who is also the academic director of Temple’s Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities.
Events like this allow the center to reach out to communities outside Philadelphia — and in turn, the center learns more about the special needs and barriers for these communities.
“This was a way for us to exchange information and share opportunities in a culturally sensitive open forum,” he said.
The group of 25 students are enrolled in a program called Las Soňadoras — The Dreamers — an after-school program for high-school students interested in information on various professional careers, including health care, and funded by Delaware Valley Innovation Network. They began their visit to Temple by hearing from representatives from the Health System and the schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry, about what it takes to get into the professional schools.
“All of us are here because of you. All of you are special,” said Marquette Cannon-Babb, assistant dean for admissions at the School of Pharmacy. “We will assist you in any way we can to help you make your dreams come true.”
Neida Perez, director of the Office of Pre-Professional Health Studies, advised the students on the admissions process for Temple’s undergraduate programs.
“When you begin applying for schools, and you choose Temple, look for me,” she told the students in Spanish. “We will provide you with everything you’ll need to put you on the right path to a health care career.”
The high schoolers toured the new medical building, and had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan Gutiérrez, Matthew Hagan and Sylvia Montalvo, bilingual second-year medical students who lead the Latino Medical Student Association.
As an undergrad, second year medical student Gutiérrez was lucky to have access to clubs and organizations that allowed him to pursue an interest in the medical field. But he knows that not everyone with his background has that opportunity.
“I participated in this event so that I could help other Latinos get exposure to careers in health care,” he said. “I know there are many who don’t have the access to information and guidance that I had.”