By Daisy Cruz
As a Latina in medicine, I am acutely aware of how many of the spaces I am occupying on a day-to-day basis have not been created for women who look like myself. I find ways to make myself present in a room, by questioning the status quo of how certain patients are being delivered care, be it by their race or socioeconomic status. This role has mostly been motivated through my own personal experiences as a Latina from South Central, Los Angeles. Thus, as I continue my aspirations in the surgical field, I have begun to realize the disappointing number of underrepresented minorities. This became obvious to me during my 3rd year of medical school, as I began to look for mentors. By finding these mentors it would enable me to feel more comfortable, sharing certain experiences with this individual, that others may not understand as well. They could enlighten me on how they overcame barriers on their way to becoming a surgeon. However, as I continued to look, mostly through residency websites and, Instagrams’ of female physicians, I couldn’t help but realize the continued lack of diversity in the surgical field.
This March during the ACS conference for the Northern California Chapter, I was able to attend a workshop on diversity. I listened to Dr. Andre Campbell, trauma surgeon at UCSF, talk about the leaky pipeline. The pipeline, as he described it, was a descriptor of how we lost underrepresented minorities in medicine from kindergarten to medical school. Let me tell you, I heard about the leaky pipeline before, but this time, I realized as I sat in a room of mostly white male surgeons, with my 3 friends who also identified as URM, how lucky I was to have made it this far. Was it by chance? No! I think all three of us knew how hard we had worked just to sit in that room. All the people back home waiting for us to become surgeons and care for the individuals of our community. That is why I have and continue to make it my mission to mentor others and bring these conversations to the table. I have done it this year, by working with the amazing medical student board here at AWS. I helped to create a formal role in diversity and inclusion, so that we can continue to have these conversations of race and its role in the surgical field.
Shaking up residency program admissions, a recent article published by AAMC, is a huge step forward. First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that this is the first time the program at the University of Pennsylvania has an African-American program director in the history of the department. I’ll repeat that again for us to let it sink in, HISTORY of the program. Next, the program is beginning holistic review of its residency applicants. The training house staff is being trained on unconscious bias, and they have involved more reviewers in the application process, other than its program directors and other select staff. As an URM student/applicant, this is a huge deal. During the application process, you begin to think about your statistics and whether you’re competitive enough for these programs. The fact that a program is going out of their way to look for applicants who are URM is a step in the right direction. It means that we are working towards fixing this leaky pipeline. It means that as we increase the number of surgeons of color, we will also improve the surgical outcomes of our patients. I hope that other residency programs will begin to seek out more opportunities to increase the diversity of their program: be it with re-visit days for URM applicants, unconscious bias training for its house staff, or simply increasing its mentorship at its affiliated medical school. The face of medicine is changing, and slowly, we are increasing the number of URM medical students, and our residency programs should begin to do the same.
Daisy is currently a fourth year medical student at the University of California-Davis. Prior to medical school, she completed her undergraduate studies at UCR where she obtained a dual degree in Biological Sciences and Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology. Following her undergraduate studies she worked at AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, as an AmeriCorp member for 2 years where she led a reproductive health clinic for teens and taught sexual education at local high schools. Her passions include working with the underserved Latino population, and increasing the diversity of underrepresented minorities in surgical specialities.
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