Exploring Hispanic Heritage Month with Second-Year GW Medical Student Cecilia Velarde De La Via

Cecilia Velarde De La Via posing in front of a white backdrop

Cecilia Velarde De La Via, was 12 years old when her family moved from Bolivia to Rockville, MD. After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, she decided to stay local in the Washington, D.C., area. She chose the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (GW SMHS) to pursue her medical education because of the school’s diverse student body and to continue her active role in the Washington, D.C., community. Here, Cecilia discusses the health care experience for members of the Hispanic community and the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month to her.

Q: What is your role at GW SMHS?

Cecilia: I am a second-year medical student; the vice-president of the Latino Medical Student Association, GW chapter; president of SALUD, a GW organization geared towards teaching medical Spanish; and a co-director of patient navigation, and the founder of the interpreting program, at Bridge to Care.

Q: Why is it important for GW to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month?

Cecilia: I think it is important for GW to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month because of the large Spanish-speaking population residing in Washington, D.C. Hispanic Heritage Month is about celebrating the richness of the Latino culture that is a part of America. Hispanics represent a vital part of the economy, especially in D.C. They contribute with their business and work within the community. This month is about supporting those businesses and recognizing the hard work of immigrants who came to the United States looking for a better future.

Q: What do you hope to see for the Hispanic community in medicine in the future?

Cecilia: I hope to see more representation in medicine, improvement to the healthcare system so it can deliver higher quality of care for Hispanic patients, and a greater integration of the Spanish language into medical training.

Q: In health care and medical education, what experiences are unique to members of the Hispanic community?

Cecilia: I think the Hispanic community shares similar health care disparities as other minority populations such as coming from an uninsured or undocumented background. These barriers make it difficult to seek healthcare and receive proper management.

Q: How do you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? Are there any Latino Medical Student Association activities happening that the SMHS community should know about?

Cecilia: I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by supporting Latino businesses and sharing my Bolivian culture with others. The Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) will be hosting and attending several events, including the Fiesta DC parade on Sept. 25, a lunch with the LMSA on Sept. 30, and a Latin dance night at Cafe Citron on Oct. 7.

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