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Hispanic Heritage Month a time to celebrate and take inclusive steps

UMass Chan community celebration on Oct. 14 at noon

By Janjay Innis

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

October 12, 2021

The UMass Chan Medical School will gather virtually on Thursday, Oct. 14, for its annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

pedraja-luis-380.jpg
Quinsigamond Community College
President Luis Pedraja, PhD,
will deliver the keynote at the
UMass Chan celebration. 

Hispanic Heritage Month began as a weeklong celebration in 1968 to highlight the achievements and contributions of Latinx people in the United States. It became a monthlong celebration in 1988 through the passing of a bill put forth by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, led by U.S. Rep. Esteban Torres. Celebrated Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, it centers on the independence of several Latin American countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, with Mexico, Chile and Belize’s independence celebrations falling a few days later.

Activists and academics alike are advocating to rename the celebration to include the term Latinx, to further gender inclusivity and to encompass the multiple ethnicities from which Latinx people come.

The monthlong heritage celebration is a time to pause and take note of the work that is yet to be done around the inclusion and representation of Latinx peoples. The Association of American Medical College’s Diversity in Medicine report, which is generated every three years, noted in 2019 that only 5.4 percent of active physicians identified as Latinx. Socioeconomic factors such as lack of access to financial assistance for medical school and psychosocial factors such as lack of mentorship and representation impact these numbers.

Given that patients are more likely to see a doctor and schedule follow up appointments when they feel heard and seen, especially by medical practitioners who look like them, this figure is especially alarming during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The risk of infection, hospitalization and death caused by the virus is 2.3 times higher in Latinx communities, the highest of all communities of color, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As Latinx people are projected to comprise the majority of the U.S. population by 2045, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the concerns Latinx communities face are national concerns.

The historic gift that UMass Chan Medical School received from The Morningside Foundation, initiatives such as the Worcester Pipeline Collaborative and groups like SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) are intentional means to address such disparities.

On Thursday, Oct. 14, at noon, the UMass Chan Medical School community will join the nation in celebration of “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” Participants will reflect on all the contributions Hispanics have made in the past and will continue to make in the future. Quinsigamond Community College President Luis Pedraja, PhD, will deliver the keynote. RSVP to celebrate the strides the community has made in the past and the hope they have for the future.