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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Thursday, September 15, 2022

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, UI Health honors the achievements and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx members of our community through Hispanic Heritage Month.

When Hispanic Heritage Month was first celebrated in 1988, it began on Sept. 15, to coincide with the national independence days of many Hispanic countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Additionally, many Hispanic countries celebrate their Independence Day during September - Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18, and Belize on Sept. 21. 

Today, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of Hispanic people in the United States. "The celebration of Latino history and heritage reinforces the acknowledgement of the contributions that Latinos have made to the United States," says Dr. Martha Menchaca, a radiologist at UI Health. 

However, it is not only well-known and prominent individuals that deserve acknowledgement for their contributions. Many UI Health staff interviewed see their family members as their biggest inspirations and worthy of immense celebration. 

Mindy Figueroa, a Labor & Delivery nurse, says her father is a major inspiration to her.

"He came to this country alone," she says. "He came here with nothing and has built a life for his family. He is a citizen of this country and has always pushed us to work hard and achieve more than he ever could."

These inspirational people and their stories were not without immense challenges, something that should also be reflected on during Hispanic Heritage Month. Mindy recalled the obstacles she had to overcome during her life: "In order for me to get to where I am, I had to overcome all the struggles of learning a new language; adjusting to a way of life that was different than what I was taught at home; being torn between wanting to assimilate to American culture while also trying to hold onto my Mexican heritage." 

These challenges are present in much of our community. Dr. Menchaca notes how minimal the Hispanic presence is in Radiology: "There are few role models and mentors in my field," she says.

Many of our staff also see the impact language and cultural barriers have on our patients. "Some patients struggle with understanding medical terminology and don't know that our facility provides language and interpreting resources" says Maria Lopez, a supervisor in the Patient & Guest Experience Office.

UI Health continues to strive to be an inclusive environment to both work in and receive care. In addition to our language and interpretation services, UI Health is proud to support the Spanish Language Clinic, as part of the Kidney Transplant Program, where patients can receive care in Spanish by culturally thoughtful care teams. The UIC College of Medicine also is proud to produce the highest number of Latinx physicians in the United States. We hope in celebrating Hispanic Heritage month we can continue to celebrate our diverse communities and recognize the immense value they all have here at UI Health.