Wright State University’s Latino Center is partnering with the Latino Medical Student Association in the Boonshoft School of Medicine, the College of Health, Education and Human Services and the El Puente Learning Center to provide free bilingual mobile health clinics for area Latino communities.
The Latino Wellness Clinic also helps Latino medical students serve the local Latino community more directly. A burgeoning Latino population in the area faces many stigmas and language barriers in everyday life, including that of health care and wellness.
“Many of our Latino medical students were inspired to become doctors based on their own experience growing up and having to translate for family members and doctors at a young age,” said Catherine Hernandez Hogan, assistant director of the Latino Center. “The clinic has been designed with a primary focus on increasing access to quality health care for the underserved Hispanic/Latino population in East and Old North Dayton.”
Last year, Folasade Fayiga, a second-year student in the Boonshoft School of Medicine from Miami, shared with Hernandez-Hogan a bilingual mobile health clinic model she experienced at the University of Miami, setting the stage for the establishment of the health clinics.
Two clinics have been held, serving more than 200 community members. A third clinic will be offered on Dec. 9 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 22 Notre Dame Ave. in Dayton.
Future clinics are scheduled for February, March and April, with a goal to hold monthly clinics on a permanent basis.
“The reality is it can be difficult for Latino/Hispanic community members to find health care professionals who speak Spanish in our area,” said Hernandez Hogan. “When there is a language barrier, it can lead to frustration and lack of trust with the health care system. And so it is incredibly impactful and transformational for our clinic to connect Latino community members with health care professionals who speak their heart language and understand their cultural background.”
The three goals of the Latino Wellness Clinic are to foster community partnerships, increase health care access, and provide a platform for medical students to gain practical experience in the fields they have chosen to pursue as a career.
Community partners assisting in these efforts and providing a broad range of services include Premier Health, Kettering Health, Prevent Blindness, ABLE Law, graduate students from Wright State’s School of Professional Psychology, the Sinclair Community College Dental Hygienist Program and Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County.
Approximately 30 Wright State students volunteer at each clinic, including Fayiga, who is president of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA); Natalie Castillo, a fourth-year medical student from Defiance; and Gisella Michelle Drouet, who is originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, and is in her final year of medical school.
“Recognizing the importance of serving Latino patients in a landscape that removes language barriers and understands cultural nuances, I collaborated with key leaders from LMSA’s prior er-board, the Latino Center and El Puente to achieve this initiative,” said Fayiga, who plans on becoming a dermatologist. “Leading the Latino Wellness Clinic has been exceptionally gratifying. Seeing the impact of our efforts, now spanning over two clinics and quickly approaching a third, our monthly wellness fair brings profound fulfillment.”
A future surgeon, Drouet said contributing to the clinics, where she heads the health screening station and registration, was a no-brainer.
“I understand the need and great benefit these clinics have in the community,” she said. “We recognize there is more to health than physical health, and we wanted to use a holistic approach by providing law, mental health and financial literacy information as well.”
Her experience also resonates with that of many of her Latino Medical Student Association classmates.
“I served as a communication bridge between my family members and their health care providers,” Drouet said. “We want our patients to communicate with their physicians directly.”
The students derive much emotional satisfaction and benefit as much practically from the clinics as do the patients they serve.
Castillo hopes to join an obstetric and gynecology residency focusing on serving diverse populations after she graduates from the Boonshoft School of Medicine.
“It is for this reason that I do think these clinics are an extension of my education,” Castillo said. “They allow me to form stronger connections with the community I plan to continue to serve, as well as give me insight into how I can better be of service to them.”