Hispanic Heritage Month: Honoring Culture, Family, and Community

Staffers across NewYork-Presbyterian reflect on what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them and how their roots impact their work.

“As I take care of patients, I know I am taking care of people like my mother, my brothers, and my abuela.”

I come from a family who emigrated from the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.  They came to the United States seeking better opportunities.

Before I was born, my mother lived in the neighborhood where I now serve. In fact, on my way to work I drive by the old block where she and my brothers once lived. My brothers came to the same hospital I now work when my family did not speak fluent English and was still acclimating to life in America. As I take care of patients, I know I am taking care of people like my mother, my brothers, and my abuela. I take pride in speaking their language and understanding the culture and advocating for them. They are my family.

Dr. Wanda Abreu
Medical Director of the Well Baby Nursery
NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

“Communication is vital and the most critical aspect of working with patients.”

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, with Hispanic heritage from Cuba and Puerto Rico. I am Cuba Rican. My Hispanic heritage has impacted my career choice and daily routines in the radiology department at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. My traditions have taught me to respect and empathize with others, and be open-minded. These traits led me to a medical career in breast imaging, where I utilize these skills and attributes to help others. It has taught me that communication is vital and the most critical aspect of working with patients to detect breast cancer. Patients who are provided with adequate communication are more at ease, more manageable to position for mammograms, and more likely to help the technologists and staff provide excellent care.

— Jennifer Arocho
Radiology Supervisor at the Breast Imaging Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

“My parents instilled in me the value of family and fellowship.”

I am a proud daughter of Dominican and Puerto Rican parents.  As a nurse practitioner and nurse leader, I am proud to represent my culture when I come to work. My parents instilled in me the value of family and fellowship. As a health care provider, I want to address health disparities and promote access and well-being. My purpose is to build awareness, educate, and help heal communities at all system levels with evidence-based practices and implementation science that facilitate change.

— Rose Chapman-Rodriguez
Nurse Practitioner Program Director
NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

“My heritage contributed to my strong desire to establish a career that would allow me to help my community and stomp out baseless prejudices.”

I celebrate my Latina heritage every day as a proud Panamanian, and I appreciate that Hispanic Heritage Month is a time carved out in the busy year to really shine a light on the amazing accomplishments, contributions, and experiences of Hispanic and Latino people.

My heritage contributed to my strong desire to establish a career that would allow me to help my community and stomp out baseless prejudices. I am also sensitive to the racism in the roots of U.S. medical education, and the implicit and explicit biases toward minoritized patients that can develop over the course of medical training and practice. I chose a career in medicine and specifically in pediatrics to improve the health of all children, and I am especially committed to inclusion and amplification of Latino voices — for those who are patients and research participants, as well as health care providers, educators, and leaders.

— Dr. Cristina Fernandez
Newborn Hospitalist
NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

“I’m proud to see people who represent my culture and proud to see them in leadership roles.”

I’m very proud to be Latina. I’m proud of my Puerto Rican culture. Hispanic Heritage month is a celebration of what our culture really is and the contributions we’ve made to American history, and the celebration of our achievements.

 I’ve worked at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester for almost 17 years, and I am proud of how diverse it has become. I’m proud to see people who represent my culture and proud to see them in leadership roles. The more people we see that represent our culture, the more ambitious we become to fill those roles ourselves.

Jessica M. Martinez
Administrative Coordinator for the Emergency Department
NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester

“This month is a recognition of all Hispanics who contribute to this country in different ways.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is significant for me because we celebrate my country of Mexico’s independence on September 16 (not May 5).  On that day we usually get together as a family and eat together. At night it is tradition to go to the center of the city of Dolores Hidalgo to give the cry of Dolores (the cry of independence) and celebrate as a family. I give thanks to my family member who taught me this profession, which has allowed me to carry out this profession at NewYork-Presbyterian. It is meaningful to me that this month is a recognition of all Hispanics who contribute to this country in different ways.

Hermenegildo Marquez
Facilities Management
NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

“It is part of the Hispanic culture to be very grateful, humble, and self-motivated; these traits have helped me empathize with every patient.”

One of our traditions that really means a lot to me is getting together often and serving delicious, home-cooked meals. It is one of the ways that I express the respect and love for one’s family and friends, which is very prominent in our Hispanic culture.

At NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, my role is to enhance patient experience and to be the voice of the patients in their time of need. I also promote an environment where the patients feel trusted, respected, and cared for. It is part of the Hispanic culture to be very grateful, happy, humble, strong and self-motivated; these traits have helped me empathize with every patient and family member that I interact with.

— Patricia Montoya
Senior Patient Services Representative
NewYork-Presbyterian Queens

“As immigrants from Peru, my parents always made sure that our language, traditions, and values were ever-present.”

As immigrants from Peru, my parents always made sure that our language, traditions, and values were ever-present. This is incredibly valuable when treating Hispanic patients. I speak their language and know their culture. There is an immediate ease, trust, and connection, which is critical for a surgeon. In addition, my research on the prevalence of lung cancer in Latinos, and social and biologic factors affecting them, will hopefully enhance the knowledge and care of patients.

— Dr. Jonathan Villena-Vargas
Cardiothoracic Surgeon
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

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