Northwestern Medicine Honors Physicians and Associates During National Hispanic Heritage Month
The observation starts on Sept. 15 which is significant because it marks the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The celebration lasts 30 days with Oct. 15 being the last day to celebrate the national observation.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Northwestern Medicine recognizes all the hard work and dedication our Hispanic physicians, nurses and staff put forth each and every day for the care of our patients. In an effort to get to honor Hispanic Heritage Month, the hospital has interviewed two of our prominent Hispanic Physicians to learn more about what their heritage means to them.
Q: What does it mean to you to be Hispanic and proud? Please include your country of origin is in your answer.
JC: As a Colombian, I am proud of my background and the culture that I try to live by each and every day. It’s a beautiful country. The country is diverse, has great weather, fantastic food (which is what I miss the most) and a vibrant energy. Being Colombian also means so much to me and my wife, who is also Colombian. We raise our daughters with the same culture and values as well as the language – they both speak Spanish.
JB: I was born and raised in the northern coast of Colombia. We are warm, friendly and uncomplicated happy people in general and our culture is rich and fascinating. I grew up in the same neighborhood of both Shakira and Sofia Vergara and my father went to school in Cartagena with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winner in Literature. I am very proud member of the Colombo-American community and have an authentic love for all people.
Q: Tell us how your culture and values influenced your decision to become a health care professional and how this resonates in your everyday work life.
JC: It’s interesting because when I first moved to the United States, I barely knew anyone and my proficiency in English was low but I was determined to become a transplant surgeon in the states. It was sixteen years ago when I happened to visit Chicago with a friend and was walking around doing all types of tourist things. As we were walking, I came across Northwestern Memorial Hospital and knew at that moment that I wanted to work there. I ended up walking straight to the chief of surgeon’s office, asked if I could speak to him about transplant fellowship opportunities and waited patiently to see him. An hour later, the chief at the time Dr. Frank Stuart and Dr. Michael Abecassis, the current chief of the division of organ transplantation and director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital sat down with me and with barely any English skills, I was able to hold a conversation with them and understand what I needed to do to train at the hospital one day. I’m very grateful for their generosity and for the opportunity.
Now, I’ve developed the first Hispanic Transplant Program in the country that helps to educate and bring awareness to the Hispanic community on organ donation and transplantation.
My determination, perseverance, faith and family values is what has helped me to become the surgeon I am today. I also feel that I embody the cultures and values of the Hispanic community which helps me take care of my patients with empathy and a great understanding of what is important to them.
JB: We are traditionally hard-working, honest, responsible and caring people with great family values and respect others.
Our culture teaches us to have respect for the elderly and care for the sick. I was inspired to become a doctor by my late Uncle Roberto Brieva, who was an outstanding pediatrician trained here in the U.S. at University of Pennsylvania. He was a great mentor to me.
Q: Please tell us how you plan to celebrate and recognize Hispanic Heritage Month at work or at home.
JC: Well, I believe that I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month each and every day by embracing the culture and values in everything that I do. As I answer these questions on a work trip in New York where I will be talking about how to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers for living kidney donation and transplantation in minorities, specially Hispanics. The concierge desk suggested multiple restaurant and one of them was a Colombian restaurant. I was looking for my favorite Colombian meal, “carne a la llanera” or “Mamona” (Traditional Colombian steak). It is delicious! Our family also regularly enjoys getting together with our Hispanic friends for parties that include great food, music and dancing.
JB: I will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine through events that promote social ties among the Hispanic faculty and highlights our active participation in health care and overall contribution to the American society.
Q: Within your area of specialty or scope of practice, what is the best health tip or advice you can share with your patients?
JC: The biggest piece of advice I can provide is that exercise and a balanced diet are key to living a healthy life. I constantly see patients with hypertension, diabetes and obesity, which if not treated, can lead to organ failure which could then require a transplant later in life. Staying on top of your health and going to your doctor regularly will help prevent further issues down the road.
JB: As a dermatologist I would like to promote skin cancer prevention and awareness among Hispanics.
We have noted a tremendous increase in the incidence of all skin cancers in all skin types and our concern is the association of commons skin cancers and melanoma with sun burns and the abuse of tanning beds.
So my biggest tip is to take care of your skin by avoiding tanning beds and getting a routine skin cancer screening by a healthcare professional. Very few Hispanics actually get annual skin cancer screening exams and this causes delays for early detection of melanomas, which can be treated promptly increasing your cure rate dramatically.