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Construyendo Comunidad: Inaugural Conference Unites Latine Health Professionals

October 17, 2023
by Jasree Peralta

Hosted by the Yale Department of Psychiatry Diversity Committee, the inaugural Latine Professionals Conference invited Latine identifying members of the New Haven health community together for a daylong conference centered around building community and the recruitment, retention, and advancement of Latine professionals.

Darin Latimore, MD, Deputy Dean and Chief Diversity Officer of Yale School of Medicine discussed several programs and initiatives at YSM that were focused on expanding access and knowledge to communities traditionally underrepresented in or underserved by medical and scientific enterprises. He also noted the recent completion of focus group sessions that were specifically held for Hispanic and Latine YSM members to better understand the community’s unique experiences and to hear recommendations on how to enhance the culture and climate.

“To achieve true equity and inclusivity within institutions, we must listen to the voices and experiences of marginalized communities,” Latimore said. “These focus group sessions provide the invaluable insight needed to shape institutions like Yale into a place where every individual feels seen, heard, and empowered to thrive.”

Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, PhD, Director of the Yale Ciencia Academy, spoke about several additional programs including LaRa (Latinas Revolutionizing Academia), an affinity community at Yale which she launched with Psychiatry professors Gabriela García Vasallo, MD and Janitza Montalvo Ortiz, PhD. Guerrero-Medina also spoke about Ciencia Puerto Rico, a nonprofit she leads that has launched a successful girls in STEM program in Puerto Rico that is now coming to New Haven through support from a NIH grant.

In addition to being the department of Psychiatry’s Grand Rounds speaker, Christina Mangurian, MD, MAS, Vice Dean of UCSF School of Medicine, had a follow up session with the conference participants by Zoom. Mangurian discussed research and strategies to support Latinas and other women of color in science and medicine. According to a recent analysis from the University of California, only 2.4 percent of US physicians are Latina. Mangurian noted proposed drivers for this include bias, discrimination, harassment, and other structural barriers.

Latimore and Mangurian both emphasized the need to focus on retention efforts, suggesting it is a necessary precursor to effective recruitment. Recommendations, based on those from NASEM, included targeted mentorship and sponsorship, creation of cohorts to reduce isolation and build community, and enhancing data driven accountability.

After a networking lunch, the conference continued with a group activity diving deeper into retention, recruitment, and advancement strategies. Participants shared both new ideas and past experiences on the subjects. When the group reconvened to discuss the findings, it became evident there were similarities in some procedures, and noticeable disparities in others. One topic that came up in discussion was the common undertaking of becoming an unofficial Spanish language translator in a department or even organization. Many of the participants had experienced finding themselves placed in situations where they were neither being compensated or acknowledged for their bilingual services, nor the additional use of their time to translate materials, conversations for colleagues, clients, etc. One participant noted that they participated in a certification process for bilingual employees to be certified and was compensated for their additional work around translations. This sparked great interest for many in the group, as it was not a common practice.

“Based on our post-conference survey feedback, next year’s event will be bigger and bolder,” said Manuel Paris, PsyD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and one of the organizers of the conference. “We hope to continue creating stronger connections and opportunities for collaboration between Yale and the wider New Haven professional community.”

Submitted by Jasree Peralta on October 17, 2023