2020 AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum: Shaping the next generation of Latino physicians
The second annual event served to highlight the importance of continuing to build diversity in the medical profession for years to come.
It was a night of hope, action, perseverance and inspiration.
The second annual AL DÍA Top Doctors Forum shed a light on some of the significant leaders who exist within the Latino community.
"We are truly united in setting an example for our Latino community — an example of resilience, of perseverance and dedication,” said Dr. Johanna Vidal-Phelan, senior medical director of pediatrics at UPMC.
When the annual Top Doctors event first took shape in 2019, it was done with a clear objective in mind.
“We felt the need to showcase the incredible talent and accomplishments of physicians of Hispanic, Latino origin who are practicing in this country, and particularly in the area,” said Dr. Daniel Schidlow, board chair.
With this objective in place, AL DÍA honored four outstanding Latino medical professionals in the region — Dr. Christian Bermudez, Dr. Carmen Guerra, Dr. Victor Navarro and Dr. Natalia Ortiz-Torrent — who exemplified the talent and accomplished professionalism that exist within their respective fields in medicine.
As each honoree accepted their award, they not only expressed great gratitude for the honor, but also made sure to express the importance of helping shape the next generation of Latino medical professionals.
“You represent the hope of our future,” Dr. Carmen Guerra said, referring to the medical students who were in the room.
It was a message also shared by Dr. Christian Bermudez, who noted that there are a lot of Latin American doctors currently in the field, and the outlook can continue to look bright if the responsibility is taken to mentor the next generation of medical professionals.
“We are here to contribute and we need to work hard to make it happen, and that takes a lot of dedication,” said Bermudez.
The message of dedication was further expressed by Guerra, whose career at Penn Medicine has spanned more than 20 years.
Guerra said it’s her patients “that remain my best teachers,” and as she continues her career, she wants to continue serving as a leader who helps build systems that remove the obstacles that make it difficult for Latinos to obtain quality healthcare.
For Dr. Victor Navarro, he shared the story of his parents, who emigrated from Mexico and while they were “quite poor,” they taught him the importance of giving back.
After spending years in the United States, his parents went back to their small town in Mexico and built a church and septic systems, which showed just how impactful the act of giving back can be.
“They did many things that that little town would not have had had they not given back,” he said.
Now, in his profession, Navarro makes sure to do the same and spread that message to young professionals, as well as his patients.
“Every time I encounter a Latino or Latina in my office, I feel that connection and I feel that need to give back,” Navarro added.
“It’s that kind of spirit that we extract from our backgrounds that really give us the opportunity to have a great impact on our youth.”
For Dr. Natalia Ortiz-Torrent, she said she would not have made it to where she is today without the value of mentors and sponsors throughout her career.
It’s why in addition to her work as a physiatrist, her work as president of SILAMP is so important to her. SILAMP is an organization that provides scholarships and mentorship for Latino students pursuing a career in medicine.
“We need to do our best to pave the way for the younger generation,” said Ortiz-Torrent. “We need to help them get a seat at the table… and teach them how to navigate their careers and overcome the barriers.”
She added how doing this can improve diversity, cultural competency and fairness within healthcare.
The event, overall, served as a way to show the reality of what it means to be a Latino in the United States today.
“We’ve been portrayed as people that have no worth sometimes, no education, no means, no understanding,” said Hernán Guaracao, Founder, CEO and Publisher at AL DÍA.
However, the dozens of physicians and medical students who filled the room at Lincoln Memorial on the evening of Jan. 22 proved to be “the perfect contradiction of that,” he added.
As we look at the future of the medical profession and the Latino community as a whole, it really starts with the current generation of professionals — those who have been in their field of work for decades and have a world of knowledge to pass on to others.
These honorees are four of many physicians who represent the evolution of the medical and healthcare industry in the region and beyond.