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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

October 5, 2022

We serve a diverse community of New Yorkers, and our Ryan Health staff reflects that diversity. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re excited to showcase a few of our staff of Hispanic origin. Read about their work and what they are most proud of from their culture!

Kalyaní-Aindrí Sánchez, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager

How did your culture influence your decision to work in healthcare?

As an Afro-Latino, it has always been essential for me to try to bridge and create access for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) people to healthcare. Learning about horrors like the Tuskegee Experiment, the forced sterilization of Puerto Rican women, and the lack of access to HIV medications in communities of color at a young age made me angry. However, I knew I had to help create bridges and opportunities with systems that have not always been kind to BIPOC people to keep my communities healthy. Knowing that health disparities are driven by underlying social and economic inequities that are rooted in racism, I was taught growing up in a Puerto Rican household run by women that I had to be a voice for others who didn’t have one. I was taught that as a community, we had to stand by each other and help each other in difficult times. The feeling of community was what infused my spirit. I had access and education, and providing training, creating spaces, and advocating for healthcare institutions to come into neighborhoods predominantly BIPOC was how I would give back and take care of my Latinxs community.

Arlene Mejia Juan, MPH, Assistant Coordinator of Support Services

How did your culture influence your decision to work in healthcare?

Growing up as a first-generation Mexican American, I watched my close family and friends neglect the importance of primary care. Not because they wanted to but because of the social determinants of health that play such a large role in accessing health care. Health disparities and health equity played a huge role in my decision to go into healthcare. Working in Support Services has allowed me to communicate and interact with patients and allow them to express themselves without the language barrier and cultural challenges that others may face. I am grateful to be able to work in my community and benefit from our work. I see my parents, family friends, and myself in our patient populations which inspires me to continue to do the work that I do. I feel a personal responsibility to be part of the solution.

What do you enjoy the most about your history and/or culture?

I am blessed to have grown up part of two cultures, two communities. I am proud to be bilingual. I am proud that I can embrace the richness of Mexico’s diverse customs, culture, and heritage. I am proud to be a part of a culture of people who have persevered and worked hard to succeed and live the American dream.

Maria Ortiz, MA, LMSW, Social Worker, Behavioral Health Integration

What do you enjoy the most about your history and/or culture?

Two of the things I love most about being of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent is the music and the warmth of the people.

How will you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, aka Latinx Heritage Month, I will be going to an Adelante event being held October 13. Also in October I am attending the book launch of "Latinx/e in Social Work Volume II" and recently did a podcast episode, as I am an author in the first edition that was released in October 2021 to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month!