From left, Melanie Castillo, first-year student in the Master of Public Health Program, Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, and third-year medical student Veronica Ramirez celebrate at the Nov. 10 National Hispanic Health Foundation 2011 Gala, which honored them for their dedication to underserved communities.
HSC Weekly 2011-11-18
National Hispanic Health Foundation honors Keck School dean, students
By Ryan Ball
In his speech at the Fourth Annual National Hispanic Health Foundation 2011 Gala, Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen A. Puliafito said, “Every day on my way to work I drive by the statue of Emiliano Zapata astride his horse.”
He said he always found it interesting that a Mexican revolutionary would be such a prominent figure in modern-day Los Angeles, where many people are still struggling for the basic human rights Zapata fought for at the turn of the twentieth century.
The growing income gap and disparities in the quality of health care available to Hispanic communities were cited often at the Nov. 10 event in Santa Monica. The gala honored California’s health professional student scholarship recipients, their families and those with extraordinary leadership.
The mood was celebratory as participants also recognized the strides that have been made by health care professionals dedicated to making an impact on underserved communities.
Puliafito received the foundation’s 2011 National Health Leadership Award during the event. He was joined by two Keck School students receiving scholarship awards. Veronica Ramirez, a third-year medical student whose focus is on primary care, and Melanie Elaine Castillo, a first-year scholar in the Master of Public Health Program, were among 15 medical students from around the state to be honored.
Ramirez thanked the foundation for believing in her potential to become a great physician who will make a difference in the lives of Latinos. “I am the first in my family to be pursuing a career in medicine, and I am so thankful for having their endless love and support,” she said.
Castillo remarked, “I promise to make the foundation proud of my efforts in public health.”
Cynthia Ann Telles, director of the Spanish Speaking Psychosocial Clinic at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, told the scholarship recipients, “I know we can count on you to make a difference in the future.”
Telles was there to receive a Leadership Award along with Puliafito and Gary L. Yates, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation.
“We have made great strides, but there are still great needs,” Telles said. She pointed out that while Hispanics make up 38 percent of California’s population, they represent only five percent of the state’s practicing physicians.
“A lot of people like to blame immigration for society’s ills,” noted Puliafito. “But that’s not what I see.” He went on to say that ethnic and cultural diversity is one of California’s great strengths: “As physicians, we recognize that building a health care workforce which mirrors our nation’s rich cultural diversity is essential in ensuring health care for all.”
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