Latinos in medicine let’s not lose our culture

Latinos in medicine let’s not lose our culture

Written by Dr. Wendy Ruggeri

In times of COVID-19, we need you. We needed you before, we need now even more.

We need you in the hospital, in clinics, over the phone. We need you to bring what you’ve learned at home to the wards. We need your compassion, your calidez, your warmth and your tone of voice that only Latinos can share with each other.

Yes, it’s SO hard to get into medical school, shit, it’s hard to STAY in medical school and make it. But you will. You will because you have put so much effort into making it up until this point.

What is “this point”? for some, it might be graduating high school when your environment told you it didn’t matter, for others it might be figuring out college and how to get good grades. For others, it might be surviving the MCAT, being a medical student, or feeling the pressure of being a resident in a hospital.

Throughout ALL of this, and once you make it as a doctor, DO NOT LOOSE YOUR “CALIDEZ”, your warmth.

As we go through our training as students and we start to experience direct patient care, we are taught to approach patients and situations in a certain way. In medical school, we had “doctoring” classes, where we practice and learn how to deliver bad news. How to discuss difficult topics like pregnancy, death, cancer etc.

The problem is, few to none of our professors and instructors are LATINO/A/X. So, we learn the basics and like every doctor in training, we develop our own style to practice medicine.

In this transformative period where you actually have the knowledge to practice medicine, do not leave you CALIDEZ behind. Bring with you the hugs, the dances, the parties, the meals and the laughter your abuelos gave you, the smiles your tias gave you and the eye-rolling you got from your crazy primos.

Bring it all into the conversation with your patient! Bring who you are and share yourself and your culture and you will find an instant connection. The worried look on the faces might all but vanish. The anxiety and fast breathing might just slow down. And if you can crack a joke in the middle go for it! Because then they understand you are one of them. You want the best for them. Really. You really want them to take their medications because you can guarantee they will feel better!!

It takes a couple of extra minutes. Stay there. Stay in the conversation and in the moment. Listen. Actually listen, don’t just wait for your turn to speak.

This is how our community will get healthier and happier. Knowing that there are Latino doctors that are out there. Educating. Participating. Engaging.

We need you. Please hurry, I’ll be waiting for you.

Dr. Ruggeri
I am a Latina Emergency Medicine Physician working in Downtown Los Angeles. I mentor minority pre-health students to encourage them to become doctors. This pandemic inspired me to write this.