mitúCares: Leslie Gonzalez of Latinx En Medicina Wins Grant To Help Her Mission
Our community does better when we all work together. As such, mitú wants to help people uplifting our communities. We asked all of you to nominate people that were doing the work and mitú is proud to announce Latinx en Medicina as one of two winners of the mitúCares grant program.
Latinx en Medicina is more than a social media page, it is an important place for Latinx healthcare workers to connect.
Leslie Gonzalez is a fourth-year medical student and has spent her academic career feeling like the only one. She often walked into classrooms and was the only Latina in the room from her masters programs through medical school. This inspired her to create Latinx en Medicina.
Gonzalez, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, went to California State University, Northridge for her undergraduate degree. She admits that during that time she felt isolated because there just weren’t any mentors who helped her along the way. She loved her experience but walking into a class for her pre-med degree and seeing no one that looked like her took a toll on her.
Getting into medical school was something much harder than she expected and wished she had a community to ask for advice.
“Applying to medical school is a whole different kind of challenge in its own. I didn’t really have mentors who looked like me,” Gonzalez says. “I don’t recall seeing a doctor who looked like me, that was Latina or Latino or Latinx. At the moment, I didn’t really understand that, until I got into med school. I applied to medical school and I didn’t get in. The first time that I applied, I didn’t get in. It’s very common not to get in the first time that you apply but I didn’t know that because I didn’t have a community to talk about this with.”
Fortunately, a pre-med counselor pointed her in the direction of a master’s program. It quickly became two master’s degrees before she was comfortable enough to apply to medical school for a second time. This time, she was accepted and what awaited her was less representation that looked like her.
Gonzalez said that in her first-year class of 200 to 220 students, 6 percent of the students identified as Latinx. She knew that it was a problem that had to be addressed. People should be able to find mentors in their fields that understand them on a cultural level, someone who could help her navigate her nagging imposter syndrome.
“I went through the motions of med school,” Gonzalez recalls. “Again, I didn’t really have a mentor who looked like me. I didn’t really have somebody to look up to. Again, I felt like I had to do the most just to prove my worth in med school because of that imposter syndrome. I didn’t know it at the moment but that was exactly what I was experiencing, the imposter syndrome.”
Gonzalez created Latinx en Medicina to create a place for people to finally connect and network.
Latinx en Medicina is all about helping Latinx healthcare professionals connect with each other like never before. Gonzalez wanted a place for any and all people who work in healthcare to have a place to network and create an online community. She remembers receiving so many messages from young Latinx people in school and starting their healthcare careers reaching out to her for advice. After a while, it got to be too much to handle on her own so she wanted to start connecting people to one another.
“Essentially, I was acting as the older sister in pointing them in the right direction. But, I am one person,” Gonzalez says. “I can only handle so many messages in my DMs. On top of that, I’m still in school, I still have that schedule. The thing that I came up with … [was to] build a community that was separate from my personal social media platform [to] build its own community.”
Another important function of Latinx en Medicina is to connect healthcare providers with patients who are Latinx. Gonzalez watched how much being able to connect with patients in their language meant to them.
Gonzalez remembers being able to talk to one young patient in Spanish and the impact it had on her then. She visited a young Spanish-speaking patient and asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. The patient said she wanted to be a doctor so Gonzalez let her wear her stethoscope and reaffirmed that she can be a doctor if she wanted to.
Moments like that, according to Gonzalez, are some of the most touching and rewarding parts of the job. Moving forward, that young girl will remember the time the doctora encouraged her to do the same.
Congratulations, Leslie! Thank you for creating a place in the medical world for our community.