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HonorHealth Libraries DEI: Diversity Calendar & Celebrations


Hispanic Heritage Month,    Karina Luera, DO, PGY-2

Let’s dive right in and learn a little more about this month, the Hispanic culture, the health disparities faced by this community, and some pioneers in medicine who just so happen to be Hispanic as well.


Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start in the middle of September?

Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long national celebration of the Hispanic and Latin cultures, histories, accomplishments, and contributions to American History. The celebration initially began as a Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and specifically encompassed the dates of September 15th and September 16th because across these two dates, 6 Hispanic nations (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico) celebrate their independence from Spain. In 1988, the celebration was later expanded to a full month spanning from September 15th to October 15th.

Hispanic is the same as Latinx, right?

Not so fast. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Both terms refer to ethnicity and culture but go even beyond these categories. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish or who originate from Spanish speaking countries. Latino (masculine) or Latina (feminine) or Latinx (gender-neutral) is a term for a person of Latin American descent which includes Central and South America and the Caribbean. A person can be Hispanic without being Latinx if, for example, they come from Spain which is a Spanish speaking country but not located in Latin America.  A person can also be Latinx without being Hispanic if, for example, they come from Brazil which is in Latin American but who’s primary language and origin is Portuguese.  Although the difference may seem small, it is significant!


¿Cómo se dice…? (How do you say?)

Based on 2020 Census data, 18.5% of people identify as either Hispanic or Latino/a/x. Unfortunately, this community faces significant health care disparities compared to non-Hispanic white communities in the US. For example, diabetes and cervical cancer are 63% and 24% more likely in Hispanic/Latinx communities, respectively. These disparities affect not only quality of life but life span too with 33% and 18% of Hispanics/Latinos more likely to die from diabetes and cervical cancer respectively. Perhaps one of the largest contributions to health care disparities is language barrier. Many health care institutions lack easy access to trained medical interpreters. Improving access to interpretation services and advocating for policies that improve coverage to access these services is essential when caring for this population. Additionally, health care providers should use teach back and motivational interviewing techniques when counseling Hispanic/Latinx patients which can help improve patient understanding, adherence, and healthcare experience.

An astronaut, scientist, and physician walk into a room…

Serena Auñón-Chancellor M.D. is not only a scientist but also the first Hispanic physician to travel into space. In 2018, she spent 6 months on the International Space Station where she studied Parkinson’s Disease and cancer. Since returning earthside she continues to work as a physician while training residents at LSU Health Sciences Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

And the award goes to…

Severo Ochoa, M.D. physician and scientist who is rarely recognized for his achievements.  His work with enzymes led to the discovery of a mechanism that can synthesize RNA; a scientific breakthrough that contributed to unlocking the human genetic code. In 1959 he became the first Hispanic American to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery.