National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year from September 15 to October 15. UMHS is honoring this proud and diverse community during this special month by showcasing some of our amazing faculty members.
The UMHS Endeavour spoke to both Luisa Veloz, M.D., UMHS Assistant Professor of Preclinical Science, and Edith Esparza-Young, Ed.D., UMHS Associate Professor of Learning Development & Language Skills, about why they feel especially proud to be Latina women working in medical education.
Dr. Luisa Veloz of UMHS. Photo courtesy of Dr. Veloz.
Luisa Veloz, M.D., UMHS Assistant Professor of Preclinical Science
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, UMHS professor Dr. Luis Veloz studied medicine in ELAM (Escuela Latino Americana de Medicina) in La Havana, Cuba. After completing her studies in 2010, Dr. Veloz returned to the Dominican Republic to complete service in her hometown, Barahona, and treated patients at Jaime Sanchez Hospital in Barahona. She also worked in the emergency department of the private clinic Santo Thomas in the same city.
Dr. Veloz helped victims after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2011 at Hospital General Melenciano in Jimani. She moved with her husband to his homeland, St. Kitts, in 2013 and worked as an emergency physician at the Joseph N France Hospital in Basseterre. She worked at Windsor University medical school as a senior lecturer and course director of Introduction to Clinical Medicine before joining UMHS as Assistant Professor of Physical Diagnosis and Introduction to Medical Skills I. Dr. Veloz is also involved in the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at UMHS.
Dr. Veloz spoke to UMHS about National Hispanic Heritage Month. What’s the best thing about it for her?
“It’s an amazing opportunity for the Hispanic community to go out there and share our rich culture,” she said. “It gives us the best opportunity to show the best of our Hispanic roots. And also gives the Hispanic community access to all the resources to help those in need.”
Working as a medical education professional is especially exciting for her during National Hispanic Heritage Month.
“I find it gets as realistic as it can get when you have a full month in which the Hispanic community from all over the world comes together as one, the medical community comes together as well and we can use this opportunity to reach out to our Hispanic family and educate them in terms of health.”
She noted it makes a big difference when one is a doctor and able to speak out in support of Hispanic people.
What are ways medical students can help celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month?
“It’s important we use this chance to reach out to our people and the rest of the world and in our unique particular way, educate them and help them to achieve a better lifestyle—maybe customize our diet plan for our diabetics and hypertensive patients, considering including healthy food choices inspired in our Hispanic culture, suggestions about experiences that link health and fun Hispanic culture.”
Dr. Edith Esparza-Young of UMHS. Photo courtesy of Dr. Esparza-Young.
Edith Esparza-Young, Ed. D., UMHS Associate Professor of Learning Development & Language Skills
Dr. Esparza-Young earned a Doctorate in Bilingual Education from Texas A&M University Kingsville, the first university in the United States to offer a doctorate in this field. Dr. Esparza-Young is the UMHS Associate Professor of Learning Development & Language Skills and is a chair of the UMHS Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
We asked what she enjoys the most about this special month.
“I think the best thing about it is that we get to be reminded of the hard work, love and passion our ancestors, family members, leaders and friends did before us,” she said. “One person decides to be a leader, not by name or by title, but by action. Because of that one person, everyone else who arrives after that moment happens— he or she gets to benefit from that leadership. We need to celebrate this sacrifice and the causes which led to change and improvement within our communities.”
As a Latina woman working in medical education, National Hispanic Heritage Month has special meaning for Dr. Esparza-Young.
“I feel very privileged to be working with medical students,” she said. “Medical students all over the world are special. However, at UMHS, I have moved past the imposter syndrome which is something many Latinx professionals tend to experience. Instead, I feel at home mostly because I understand what it means to see a person be a trailblazer and what it means to have a vision. My parents were trailblazers and had a vision. With only a third-grade education, they managed to have all six of their children graduate from college. I believe UMHS has a vision, and it is very exciting to be a part of that vision and mission.”
Dr. Esparza-Young said the best thing medical students can do to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month is talk to family.
“My main suggestion is for them to interview their parents, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles. Our stories are not written anywhere. We carry our history through stories and oral traditions, and it's important to write them down and to tell them. It's an important practice to interview our loved ones to find out what our family experienced and to honor them by continuing to tell those stories.”
An academic journal noted in a study how researchers determined that Latino children who grew up in bicultural environments were more likely to have higher self-esteem. They were less likely to have behavioral problems. Dr. Esparza-Young said she thinks students can benefit greatly from learning about the contributions of their ancestors. Doing so helps students feel prouder and more connected to their communities, homeland and the USA.
“Identity is important. Our language, our culture and the way we live are all part of our identity. We have to own who we are and not feel ashamed, ever. This way, when someone calls us by what we are, we are proud. In my case, I'm proud to be Mexican. I'm proud to be an immigrant. It's never an insult. It's always a feeling of pride, and I learned that from my parents.”
Dr. Esparza-Young has 28 years of teaching experience and is a native Spanish speaker. Before joining UMHS almost three years ago, Dr. Esparza-Young served as an English Language Specialist for the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University. The U.S. Embassy in Madrid joined other organizations to fund several grants so that she could provide training for American and Spanish Fulbright Scholars in English and Spanish.
Dr. Esparza-Young is a certified teacher in Texas in the areas of English, Spanish, ESL and Bilingual Education. She has also studied French, German and Russian, and serves as an Editorial Review Board Member for the NABE Journal of Research and Practice and The International Journal of Community and Diversity. She was the Educational Outreach Coordinator for the San Antonio Book Festival in 2018.
(Top photo) UMHS professors Dr. Edith Esparza-Young & Dr. Luisa Veloz. Photos courtesy of Dr. Esparza-Young & Dr. Veloz.
Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.