Latinos Unidos

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Angélica María Escobar, Team Leader

When Angélica and her family first emigrated from Colombia to the US she felt her view of the world broaden since she now had two cultures with which to understand the world. She has a deep appreciation for diversity and continues her involvement in improving healthcare access and quality to underrepresented and underserved communities. She is a volunteer interpreter at free clinics for uninsured Latinos, has received a Schweitzer fellowship to implement a service project in the Latino community, and has recently been hired as a certified Spanish medical interpreter at UPMC hospitals of Pittsburgh. Angélica spends her free time chasing away gloomy Pittsburgh weather the only way Colombians know how—with lots of music and dance! She enjoys dancing the night away with salsa or any type of Latino tune, and savors plucking away on her ukulele and guitar.

José Miguel Juárez, Team Member

Miguel is a lifelong traveler, and he absolutely loves it! He was born and raised in Paterson NJ, studied at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester MA, taught with Teach For America in Houston TX and Tunica MS, and served as a paramedic with Nature Coast EMS in Lecanto FL. Today, he is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the National Public Relations Chair of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). Throughout medical school, Miguel has had the opportunity to feed his passion for global health by serving on medical trips with People For Haiti, Floating Doctors – Panama, and Honduras Hope Inc. He has also worked with Dr. Patch Adams and Gesundheit Institute in Guatemala! In addition to traveling, Miguel enjoys soccer, lacrosse, hiking, camping, biking, and taking breaks from Step 2 studying!

Daniela Inés Alarcón, Team Member

Daniela has her humble beginnings in a small town of western Pennsylvanian that was put on the map as the hometown of Jimmy Stewart and the Christmas Tree Capitol of the World — which many think this is a self-proclaimed title. She obtained an undergraduate degree from the Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Before applying and accepting her attendance to medical school, you could find her running a fine dining restaurant as the manager, bartender, and head waitress. Now, a first year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Daniela can always be found at the gym, a small restaurant, or a hidden coffee shop, as her love for lifting, food, and a good cafecito are how she keep those med school blues away.

Vivianne Oyefusi, Team Member

Vivianne is a second-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Originally from the DC metro area, she completed her undergraduate education in 2014 at the University of Pittsburgh. In her free time, she likes to play chef in the kitchen, play dancer on salsa nights, and try to keep plants alive. She loves meeting new people, learning new stories, and hopes to “be a real doctor one day.” She is passionate about healing on multiple levels, including, but not limited to, the individual, societal, and global scales.

Simon Edber, Team Member

A native of Sacramento, Simon moved to New Orleans after growing tired of perfect weather. At Tulane University he studied foreign languages and cultures while moonlighting as a jazz drummer and completing pre-med coursework for fun. He now attends the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with almost as much passion as he attends Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins games.

Team Essay

I spotted a patient looking over a prescription with a worried look. As volunteer interpreter at a clinic that serves uninsured Latinos, I knew her anxiety might be augmented by language barriers. I struck up conversation, and her face seemed to explode with joy when she heard my Spanish. She confided in me how isolated she felt. She arrived in the US recently and couldn’t speak English—she was overwhelmed because she had no idea where the closest pharmacy was and needed antibiotics.

I was humbled that these significant challenges hadn’t crossed our minds—this woman had been discharged, yet from her expression it was obvious that we could still help. I asked her address and found the closest pharmacy online. I wrote down the information and a phrase in English so she could claim the medication. This barely cost me but she greatly appreciated it, hugging and thanking me. When I asked if there was anything else I could do, I noticed her hesitation as she looked down: “I didn’t want to bother the doctor…but I’m not sure I can afford this right now—l haven’t found a job. How long could I go without medicine?”

My heart sank, and I felt shortsighted for being oblivious to the hurdles she had to overcome for medication that in my limited perspective was easy to come by. I pulled a few interpreters aside, and we were able to find coupons that reduced the price significantly. It’s moments like these that have made our passion for medicine continually grow—we find ourselves in positions where we can intervene and help at many levels, not just in a medical capacity. By understanding that social, cultural, and economic circumstances have profound impacts on health, we can focus our efforts so that each individual receives the highest standard of care.

Our passion for this unique intersection of medicine with socioeconomic factors is why we are so interested in the AMA Insurance Global Health Challenge. In our experience working with the underserved Latino community in Pittsburgh, we’ve seen how appreciation of the unique backgrounds of our patients and active engagement with the community is crucial to our success and efficacy as health professionals. This not only builds trust and rapport, but allows us to gain a deeper awareness of relevant barriers to health in a population so that our efforts can be tailored and holistic.

As Latinos ourselves, the GHC excites us because we hope to gain a more complete picture of the challenges our communities face before they enter our clinic or even before they arrive in the US. For us, becoming doctors is about more than just medicine—it is a commitment to community which requires a sophisticated understanding of social determinants of health to make our care most effective. We believe that the kind of collaboration encouraged by the AMA Insurance GHC would allow us to bridge gaps in healthcare for the underserved at an infinitely higher rate than if we attempted to do so alone.