Young Latina chosen as future health leader
A young Latina student from Northeast Philadelphia has been awarded the United Health Foundation Scholarship to pursue a health care career.
Raised in Juniata Park neighborhood, Sophia Barrios is a sophomore majoring in biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University.
Fluent in English and Spanish, the 20-year-old student intends to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine to serve underrepresented communities, particularly children.
By graduating in this field, Barrios would join a workforce in which, nationally, only 5 percent of physicians and 4 percent of registered nurses are Latino.
“I have been working since the age of 14 and currently balance two jobs while being a full-time college student,” Barrios said.
Her interest in health care developed while growing up and observing the experiences of immigrants that navigate through the health system.
“It is my passion since I was very young. Seeing my own parents going to clinics and having a language barrier, my mom often times would have translators with her physicians. So I wanted to grow further in the healthcare system and use my abilities to help the community,” Barrios said.
Born in Philadelphia to Nicaraguan parents, she was raised by her mother. At a very young age she felt like she needed to contribute in her home and that help her put herself out there.
“My mom installed in me the value of determination. Both my parents always encouraged me to go to school and perseverance, I think the gateway to opportunities is through education,” Barrios said.
As a first generation college student she is very thankful to have received a recognition from United Health Foundation. “I am tremendously grateful to have this foundation believe in my potential to become a leader in health care. My goal is to devote my time working for small community health clinics that focus on providing affordable, high-quality, and multi-cultural health care.”
She added that being a first generation college student is a lot of work that in the end gives you much more.
“It is hard because sometimes you don’t have a support system or someone to guide you unless you put yourself out there and look for resources,” Barrios said. “Often times I couldn’t ask my mom to help me for a reading test, and not because she didn’t wanted to help. So I had to seek out tutors and resources to help me advance academically. It is more work and you are constantly pushing yourself beyond limits.”
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the country will need 124,000 more physicians, 157,000 more pharmacists and 1 million more nurses to meet growing demand for health services, in part because of expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative will award nearly $2 million in scholarships during the 2014-15 school year to students from diverse cultural backgrounds. The initiative aims to increase diversity in the health care workforce by supporting promising future health professionals as they pursue their education.
For more information about the Diverse Scholars Initiative, visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org