More Latinos Needed in STEAM Fields

By Dr. Eduardo Sanchez

In order to break the cultural and language barriers needed to eliminate disparities and transform science and health care, our community needs to gather more STEAM.

Science. Technology. Engineering. Arts. Math.

Latinos are underrepresented in many areas of the healthcare sector -- as physicians, nurses, administrators and researchers, to list a few. More and more, we are discovering that increasing Hispanic diversity in the healthcare workforce might help reduce health disparities among Latinos.

Education in the STEAM fields creates opportunities in health care -- and so much more:

  • Education in STEAM can serve as a great foundation for careers in other fields such as business, law and entrepreneurship.

  • Education in STEAM leads to critical-thinking and decision-making skills.
  • Education in STEAM fields prepares the mind to seize opportunities.
  • Mayra Covarrubias Martinez is a wonderful example.

    She remembers accompanying her mother to her father's frequent doctor's visits when she was 12, and how sometimes language barriers would get in the way. She remembers him setting an example of hard work and perseverance, sustaining his family on wages as a vegetable picker in the Salinas Valley field, despite his polio-stricken leg.

    It is what spurred her to reach for a career in STEAM. She wants to serve low-income Hispanic families and ensure that they receive adequate access to health care.

    Today she is a nursing student at San Jose State University, with the ambition to become a nurse practitioner with her own clinic.

    She is also the recipient of a Go Red Multicultural Scholarship. The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women and Macy's annually give 16 scholarships of $2,500 each to help increase diversity in the medical field and improve culturally sensitive, patient-centered care. Macy's is the founding national sponsor of the association's Go Red For Women and Go Red Por Tu Corazón.

    The reality is that Latinos -- along with other ethnic groups such as African Americans -- are at higher risk for heart disease. And simply put, breaking the cultural and language barriers among patients and healthcare providers can lead to better health care for everyone.

    There are so many reasons for Latinos to consider STEAM and the healthcare industry. According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, between 2010 and 2020 the overall employment in these kind of professions will increase by 17 percent, yet not enough Hispanic students are pursuing degrees and careers in the fields to meet the increasing demand.

    The jobs are generally recession-proof, are available in virtually all community settings and are personally and professionally satisfying. One of the most important reasons, however, is that the chance to make a difference is very real and reachable.

    It's not just for our Latino community. It's for all of us.

    Dr. Eduardo Sanchez is the chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association.