PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — CBS News Philadelphia is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. A medical school in Wynnefield Heights is hoping to diversify the next generation of medical professionals.
With an eye to the future, Dr. Arturo Bravo-Nuevo and Dr. Leslie Fernandez are hoping to bring more Hispanic representation into the medical field starting on campus at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Medicine has to integrate all different cultures and all different places,” Dr. Bravo-Nuevo said.
Places like Spain, which is where Bravo-Nuevo is from, and Puerto Rico where Dr. Fernandez’s family calls home. Both say their backgrounds and struggles throughout their career highlight the need for more inclusive environments including at the doctor’s office.
“Maybe we don’t use the proper terminology, that doesn’t mean we don’t have the knowledge,” Fernandez said. “If anything, we’re just as bright being bilingual.”
“When you have an accent, when you’re a foreigner you suffer microaggressions all the time,” Bravo-Nuevo said. “Small things like ‘Sorry I don’t understand you, what are you saying?'”
Breaking down cultural and language barriers led Dr. Bravo-Nuevo to create PCOM’s medical Spanish course to help all students communicate with patients.
“It’s always nice to have someone who can welcome you in your own language,” Bravo Nuevo said.
Aside from language, Dr. Fernandez hopes to motivate aspiring Hispanic medical professionals to take a leap of faith while balancing their family values.
“You don’t have to leave your family behind,” Fernandez said. “I’m just as close to my family as I was when I was growing up. That will never ever change.”
What they do hope to change is the number of Hispanics choosing a career in medicine by highlighting their community’s achievements on October 1 for National Latino Physician Day.
“Although Hispanics are a large part of the population, they represent only 6% of the clinicians that there are,” Bravo-Nuevo said. “So, it’s a reminder that work still needs to be done.”
“We need more of us in the community out here helping patients because there just isn’t enough of us,” Fernandez said.