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Fighting Inequity

By Katie Sigeti ’06 philanthropy manager, alumni programs
While pursuing his medical degree, an alumnus supports the Hispanic community during COVID-19. 
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely be studied for years to come. The virus has not only touched the lives of countless people globally; it has also shined a light on inequities faced by people of color. The disease has disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx populations, highlighting the socioeconomic disadvantages and challenges of healthcare access. 

Jordan Juarez ’13 serves on the frontlines of those working to mitigate this societal ill, specifically for the Latinx community. As a second-year medical student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, he serves on the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) as co-president of his local chapter and as fundraising chair for LMSA-Northeast. 

LMSA, a national nonprofit organization with chapters at medical schools across the United States, supports Latinx medical students. The mission of Juarez’s local chapter at Temple University consists of three pillars: increase the number of Latinx medical students, improve the student experience for Latinx students at Temple, and serve the greater community.

During the pandemic, the community service element of their mission rose to meet the Hispanic community’s needs in Philadelphia. COVID-19 poses a higher risk for the Hispanic population because of the higher prevalence of comorbidities, linguistic barriers and essential jobs that require working in person. Juarez and his chapter launched a YouTube educational series in Spanish shared with local community health centers and clinics to educate the community. The short videos included resources about what to do when an individual or family member contracts COVID-19, protocols for physical distancing and hygiene recommendations. “Traditionally, Hispanic families live in multigenerational homes,” he shares. “It’s important to educate how they can appropriately social distance, especially when a member of the household falls under the high-risk category or becomes infected. Because Hispanics were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in the city of Philadelphia, we felt obligated to assist our community.”

Juarez also served at Puentes de Salud, a health-care clinic composed of medical student and doctor volunteers that predominantly serves the Hispanic community in Philadelphia. The majority of their patients are immigrants, many undocumented, who fear repercussions for visiting a health clinic or hospital. “I go several times a month, and it is the highlight of my week,” says Juarez. “Because when you’re in the library or you’re in your apartment studying, you sometimes forget why you’re in medical school. When you go to the clinic and you’re interacting with patients who come from similar backgrounds, who speak the same language, who face many barriers and are so appreciative to have not only a Spanish speaker but someone who can culturally relate as well, it’s uplifting. And it’s really encouraging,” explains Juarez. 

According to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, Black and Latinx communities are underrepresented in medicine. Latinxs make up 18.5 percent of the U.S. population but only 5 to 6 percent of U.S. medical school graduates. Through his involvement in LMSA, Juarez is working to change that because he believes representation matters. “There is significant research demonstrating that racial and ethnic concordance (or the idea of Hispanic patients being seen by Hispanic physicians) in medical care leads to improved outcomes such as increased trust and decreased confusion,” he shares. “[These are] two benefits that can help address both the cultural and language barriers prevalent in our community.” 

Juarez, who is also pursuing an MBA at Temple, conducted a research project in summer 2020 on the social determinants of health—how the conditions in which one lives and works, access to resources, along with other social and environmental factors, impact health outcomes. He plans to specialize in cardiology and go into academic medicine. 

“Country Day gave me the confidence to pursue medicine,” he shares. “Through taking courses such as Honors Neuroscience to engaging with the City of San Diego through our Community Service Board, I was able to develop my passion for both science and service to others. These are critical pillars that ground the art of medicine, and I credit my Country Day education, from the enthusiastic faculty to the caring staff, for supporting me to chase my lifelong dream of becoming a physician.”

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