Dear colleagues,

Our diversity as a caregiving and learning community is a source of strength for the School of Medicine. It makes us better clinicians, better researchers and better teachers, and I’m proud of our efforts to champion inclusivity and equity in everything we do.

Part of this process entails identifying areas where greater focus can generate positive impact in the lives of those we serve. As we recognize Hispanic Heritage month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) over the next 30 days, I was struck by some of the findings in a 2022 Pew Research Center survey highlighting the health care experiences of Hispanic Americans.

Hispanic people are the largest minority group in the U.S., comprised of people from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South and Central America and other Spanish origins. It is estimated that the Hispanic population will reach over 111 million in the U.S. by 2060. But according to the Pew survey, half of the adult Hispanic population reported finding it hard to understand the process of obtaining medical care.

The Pew survey also identified other barriers Hispanic people face when interacting with health care systems, including: culture and language barriers, higher rates of poverty among immigrant populations and other social health determinants that drive disparities in health outcomes. So, what can we do?

As a medical professional -- and a proud Hispanic American who was born in Spain and who grew up in Puerto Rico -- I can’t think of a better way to honor the richness and impact of Hispanic culture in our American experience than by improving health care in this community. The more barriers we can break down between caregiver and care receiver, the better outcomes we will see.

At the School of Medicine, we are committed to closing this gap, and looking for ways to increase Hispanic representation in the medical profession, particularly in leadership roles. Hispanic researchers and clinicians have pioneered some of the most important discoveries and treatments in modern medicine. There is no reason the School of Medicine cannot lead the way in producing the next generation of caregivers and in administering essential care. This will not happen overnight, but the conversation needs to start now.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the SOM Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is sponsoring the following in-depth discussions:

Hispanic Leadership in Academic Medicine: Implications and Opportunities for Education, Research, and Patient Care

I encourage you all to participate and engage on this important issue, as we continue our progress in advancing the School of Medicine as a positive, caregiving force in our increasingly diverse community.

With respect,

Arturo P. Saavedra, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System