By Amanda Dominguez
“My greatest hope is that we don’t reach for normal, that we reach for better.” -Michele Norris.
The above quote resonates with me so much. When I look at the number 2020, one word comes to mind - CHANGE. For me the focus of change has to deal with health disparities and inequalities. I have always had a yearning to help the community, especially those which do not have access to the health care they deserve. As a young Hispanic woman I have witnessed this first hand with family and patients. Because of these experiences I vowed I would strive to mitigate these obstacles minorities face.
Health disparities and inequalities have been problematic for years. This is not an individual problem, this is an us problem. Each one of us needs to be accountable, for the change we want to see. Our greatest weapon is education, while our greatest tool is knowledge. We need change, but change requires work. If we want better communities, then we have to educate ourselves on how communities develop. What infrastructures do our communities need? What resources do we need? If we want political justice, we have to educate ourselves in politics and we must vote. If we want better healthcare, we need to understand how these systems work. Are there prejudice or microaggressions preventing patients from receiving care?
I am currently on my Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations, and throughout I have been asked to help the spanish speaking patients. I relish in doing this and never think twice about it. However, today a patient pulled at my heartstrings, a little more. I did nothing in my eyes that was spectacular. I simply did a routine medication reconciliation and their eyes lit up. After each patient visit, I always make sure to thank them for allowing me to talk with them. “¡Gracias por dejarme hablar contigo!” I told a patient, “No, gracias a usted!”, she replied. Which translates to; “no, thank you!” She then continued to tell me although she has worked in the United States for years, she knows she should speak better English, but in stressful situations she gets nervous. She told me how the team usually comes in with an iPad and speaks to an interpreter through this. She continued saying, for some reason her thought process runs out the door. All she can do is look at the iPad and the medical team and try to comprehend all that is going on. She further told me how she felt as though she was stuck in a hospital room, because she knew the only way to communicate is if someone had an iPad. My presence made her feel less alone, as if I popped my head in to say, “Hey I’m here, you aren’t alone.” I thanked her for sharing and wanted to leave in tears. The tears were of happiness that I could help her, but also tears of sadness, she could feel the way she did. And yet, tears of disappointment there are not more Hispanic pharmacists and physicians in our communities.
Could you imagine feeling so ill, you had to be admitted to the hospital for heart failure exacerbation, for pneumonia, or even for COVID-19. You have a medical team, doing their best to communicate with you, through different resources. But, unfortunately, you are scared and lost because it is not the same as speaking to someone in your own language and explaining directly to you, so you can understand what is going on. Again, can you imagine how afraid and alone you would feel?
My life is feeling a bit routine, with waking up early and going to bed late. However, I love what I am doing. There may be days I am tired, but I push through, as if running a marathon. I do not do this for myself, I do this for my community, my patients, and my family. I work hard to educate myself, so that I am able to care for someone’s mother, sister, brother, father, uncle, aunt, grandma or grandpa. My goal is to work in areas impacted by health disparities, so one day I can help create and work in clinics for these underrepresented communities. I will continue to master my craft for my community. I am striving to become a Doctor of Pharmacy who I would want to care for my loved ones. I am becoming the woman I wanted my younger self to have as an example, que si se puede, that it is ok to become a successful Hispanic.
Amanda Dominguez, PharmD Candidate 2021