Western University of Health Sciences


La Voz de Nuestra Gente

Latino Medical Student Association

Highlight: Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15, 2020

In honor of National Latinx Heritage Month, our Latino Medical Student Association would like to take the opportunity to honor those in our community that have paved the example for us academically and professionally. We would love to take advantage of the “Unmuted” theme to share our community’s voices and acknowledge the hard work of nuestra gente.

Dr. Katherine Flores, MD

“Dr. Katherine Flores is the director of The Latino Center for Medical Education and Research at UCSF Fresno, which addresses the persistent shortage and under-representation of Latino physicians in the practice community and in the medical school faculty. She has also established programs to encourage disadvantaged students to pursue careers in medicine: the Sunnyside High School Doctor’s Academy and the middle school Junior Doctor’s Academy. These programs provide academic support and health science enrichment to young people who might otherwise not be exposed to careers in STEM. Dr. Flores was born and raised in the Central Valley to a family of farmworkers and began helping in the fields at a young age. The health inequities she saw and experienced firsthand from a young age continue to guide her work in medicine and in mentorship. I chose to honor Dr. Flores because I deeply identify with her story as a fellow Latina in medicine hailing from the agricultural fields of the San Joaquin Central Valley. I aspire to be half the physician and mentor that Dr. Flores is and to inspire future Latina physicians the way she has inspired me.”

Olga Friaz Borbon, COMP-Pomona student

Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz, PhD, NASA’s First Latinx Astronaut

“Dr. Chang-Dí­az was born on April 5, 1950 in San José, Costa Rica. As a child, he became fascinated by space and dreamed of becoming one of the American astronauts he saw on TV. By the age of 18, his father bought him a one-way ticket to the United States, and Franklin left Costa Rica with only a backpack filled with clothes and $50 in his pocket. He enrolled as a senior into his local high school in Hartford and within 6 short months, he became fluent in English. Franklin was then offered a full-ride scholarship to UConn, only to have the offer retracted by the school officials shortly after since they realized he was not a US citizen. After pleading to the school board, he was able to pursue his education and earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. In 1977, he went on to earn a PhD in plasma physics and fusion technology at MIT. He was working for a laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts when NASA announced it was looking for its next astronauts. Franklin applied and interviewed, but was turned down. In 1980, he applied for a second time and a few months later, he was notified that he had been accepted. Six years later, he went on his first mission and then flew into space another 7 times. Dr. Chang-Dí­az retired from NASA in 2005. I decided to honor Dr. Chang-Díaz for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month because as a fellow native Costa Rican and immigrant, he made believing in the American dream a little more within my reach.”

Carolina Zamora Salazar, COMP-Pomona student

Dr. Matilde Montoya, MD

“Dr. Matilde Montoya was the first Mexican female physician. She was born in 1859 in Mexico City. She was taught by her mother and tutors as a child and grew to be an intelligent and resilient student. By the age of 16, she became a midwife. However, that was only the beginning of her career, as she had bigger dreams; she wanted to become a doctor. She applied to the Escuela de Medicina de México and was rejected due to her being a woman. She faced criticism from colleagues and the general public for challenging social norms. Dr. Montoya was unfazed and determined to achieve her dreams. She petitioned government officials and wrote directly to President Profirio Diaz. President Diaz supported her application. Despite the challenges that she faced, she received her MD degree from the Escuela de Medicina de México in 1887. I chose to honor Dr. Montoya because she persevered in her studies and achieved her dream. She set the path that allowed women the opportunity to become doctors. She also gave women and little girls, including my younger self, courage and bravery to follow our dreams.”

Adriana Casas, Podiatric Medicine student

Dr. Mauricio Gonzalez, MD

“Nutrition is not a common discussion at a Latinx dinner table. The awareness of the value of a plant-based diet is highly needed to move the dial of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among the Latinx population. Dr. Mauricio Gonzales is a Mexican nutritionist and Board-Certified Internal Medicine physician. Now, as an Emergency Medicine resident at the New York Medical College, he has translated his medical knowledge to Spanish public knowledge. Through social media and nutritional summits, he has created lectures, video clips, and so much more to convey the scientific evidence behind lifestyle changes to arrest the progress of chronic diseases. His advocacy of the value of plant-based nutrition and exercise makes him an asset to our healthcare system.”

Gabriela Ramirez, COMP-Pomona student

Dr. Luis von Ahn, PhD

“While Duolingo and reCAPTCHA might seem a bit unrelated to each other, they were both products of Guatemalan-born Dr. Luis von Ahn. Inspired by the lack of educational opportunities in Guatemala, much less in Mathematics, Dr. Ahn emigrated to the United States at the age of 18. Despite experiencing racism in the field of academics, he prided himself in being one of the few Hispanics in the tech realm at the time. To this day, he continues to bridge the gap of educational disparities between the rich and poor by making Duolingo accessible to everyone. Above his struggles, Dr. Ahn has become internationally recognized and has received awards for his contributions to computer science and successful teaching.”

Ricardo Guevara, COMP-Pomona student

Dr. Alfredo Quiñones Hinojosa, MD

“Dr. Alfredo Quiñones Hinojosa is the current Chairman of Neurologic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic. His life story of being born in Mexico, working as a migrant farm worker when he came to the U.S., and overcoming several obstacles until he graduated from Harvard Medical is an inspiration. As a first generation student, there was no one in my family that was able to walk me through how to succeed in the U.S.A.. Dr. Q was one of the first Hispanic physicians that many of us looked up to growing up, so this is why we choose to honor him in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Juan (JC) Sanabria, COMP-Pomona student

Dr. Angela Restrepo Moreno, PhD

“Dr. Angela Restrepo Moreno is a Colombian-born microbiologist and researcher known for her establishment in the diagnoses & treatments to combat disease caused by Paracoccidioides brasiliensis. She completed her studies at Tecnologí­a Médica del Colegio Mayor de Antioquí­a en Laboratorio Clí­nico. She completed her Doctorate at the University of Tulane, in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2007, she was awarded the SCOPUS Prize (Elsevier) which is awarded to Colombian scientists with the greatest number of publications and citations. Dr. Angela Restrepo Moreno is a true inspiration, one of the most highly renowned microbiologists in Colombia. She is an inspiring role model for women in science, and this is why I chose to honor her for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Jessica Landeros, Podiatric Medicine student

Dr. Raul Ruiz, MD, MPP, MPH

“Dr. Raul Ruiz is a physician trained in Emergency Medicine, as well as the U.S. Representative for California’s 36th congressional district. He was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and was raised in rural Coachella Valley where his family worked as farm workers. He graduated from UCLA and is the first Latino to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard University. In 2010, the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne awarded him the Commander’s Award for Public Service for his leadership in humanitarian efforts following the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. In addition, Dr. Ruiz founded the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative and became Senior Associate Dean at UC Riverside’s School of Medicine. He has recognized the physician shortage crisis in his hometown of Coachella and so started pre-medical mentorship programs such as the Future Physician Leaders for young aspiring doctors. I chose to honor Dr. Ruiz because he was one of the first Latino Physicians I knew of and one of my role models growing up in the agricultural Imperial Valley.”

Joshua Hernandez, COMP-Pomona student