ROCHESTER — Addressing the disparities in health care for Hispanics and attracting more Latino young people to enter the medical field will mean a better future for the entire country.
That was the message from Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, who served as keynote speaker for Ibero-American Action League’s 45th-annual luncheon.
Ibero offers a good example of how to address those issues, she noted, by partnering with government and other businesses to improve the quality of life for Hispanics through its programs for early childhood, high-school graduates, disabled adults and the elderly, she said.
"It helps the whole community to facilitate a more productive (population)," Rios said.
Investing in education to boost the number of Latino students excelling in science and math so they can pursue medical careers also will help meet the need for cultural competency among doctors and nurses who work with ethnic populations, she added.
Currently, only 5 percent of Hispanics are doctors and only 2 percent are nurses, which drew gasps from some of the more than 400 people who attended the Nov. 1 luncheon at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
Parents also need to make the investment and let their children pursue these studies, which do take longer to complete, instead of having them find jobs after high school to help support the family, Rios explained. Such investment will eventually improve the overall financial health of the family as well, she said.
"We do need your sons and daughters," Rios said, adding that mentoring and scholarship opportunities are available for such students.
Also during the luncheon, several people were recognized for their contributions to Ibero’s community service mission:
* Robert Thompson, Excellus’ vice president for community health engagement, was named Friend of the Year.
* Kelly Mullaney, owner and president of Working Art Media, was named Volunteer of the Year.
* Migdalia Toro, homeownership coordinator with NeighborWorks, received the Alicia Torres Award.
* Dr. Constantino Fernández, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, received the "Lo Mejor de lo Nuestro" (Our Best) award.
The luncheon also marked the kick-off for the agency’s annual capital campaign. Last year, the agency finished the year in the black even though it lost $1 million in funding, said Hilda Rosario Escher, Ibero’s executive director and chief executive officer.
"We have endured changes in our economy, changes in our environment and changes in our community," she said. "We continue to serve this community, which is why your support is so important."
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Ibero-American Action League, visit iaal.org.