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How I Learned to Appreciate Diversity as a Healthcare Worker

Working in healthcare with many Hispanic patients has given me a unique perspective on their culture, and I have come to appreciate Hispanic foods, the Spanish language, and cultural adversity.

As a healthcare provider, I’ve had several experiences that help me understand and appreciate diversity and inclusion. I’ve worked extensively with Hispanic individuals, and it’s clear that there are differences in how society treats them. I have grown to love these people as I have spent so much time with them over the years in various settings, and I seek to serve them to the best of my ability as a clinical pharmacist. In particular, I’ve learned a few things about appreciating the foods they eat, the Spanish language they speak, and their optimistic attitude despite adversity.

Hispanic Food

In my role as a pharmacist, I have talked with many patients about changing their diet to improve their health, mainly in relation to diabetes. Hispanic individuals tend to have a specific way of eating that includes lots of tortillas, rice, and beans – all of which are carb-containing foods. High-carb foods are detrimental to diabetes because consumption of these foods can raise blood sugars to unhealthy levels.

So unlike other individuals of different backgrounds who may eat lots of fast food, follow the keto or paleo diet, or consume a healthy, well-balanced variety of foods, Hispanics have taught me a different approach when talking about diet modifications to promote health. They have taught me how meal planning is something worth spending time talking about, and needs to be an important part of treating diabetes and other chronic medical conditions. They have also shown me how willing they are to change, and inspired me to be willing to challenge my assumptions.

As part of my work environment, I’ve felt embraced by the Hispanic community through food and generosity. Whether it’s participating in potlucks where we’re served homemade posole or someone brings a vat of atole as a morning drink, it’s been a cultural experience I won’t forget.

The Spanish Language

As a native English speaker with an itch to travel, I’ve always had an interest in learning other languages. But I never seem to make the time or have enough motivation to follow through with learning another language. I took French in high school, and loved it – I even got some college credit because I did so well in the class. But after high school, there was no incentive or reason to continue practicing French, so I’ve forgotten most of it. When I learned I would be working with lots of Spanish speaking patients as a pharmacist, I figured this would be a great way to pick up some Spanish.

There’s no substitute for being immersed in a language when you’re trying to learn it. I supplemented my learning with a Duolingo, a popular app for learning languages. Hearing and trying to speak Spanish helped solidify many words and language constructs I was learning about and practicing Spanish on my own. Though my Spanish is far from perfect, I’ve grown to appreciate the language and the Hispanic culture as I seek to communicate with my patients in their native language as much as possible.

Cultural Adversity

I’ve visited Hispanic migrant farm worker communities where families are crammed into small housing spaces with poor living conditions. They have limited contact with the outside world. I was amazed to see this happening in the United States (US) – and yet, the people were so happy. It helps me realize that happiness does not come solely from material things. These people had a great opportunity to live in the US and they appreciated it more that I had my whole life as a US citizen. It helps me realize that so much in my life is taken for granted.

Many Hispanics are concerned about cultural biases and political agendas against undocumented immigrants because they are afraid of being stereotyped, even if they are legal citizens. I can’t imagine what it is like to live that way. I feel a great need for all people to treat each other kindly and without preconceived bias or prejudice. All people are worthy of our respect, regardless of cultural or ethnic background.

Conclusion

Being around Hispanics has taught me the importance of treating all people as equals. I have a greater desire to promote human equality and respect the beliefs, desires, and cultural practices of individuals of all races. I believe that people worldwide share an obligation to take care of each other as one race – the human race – and treat others as we want to be treated.

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