As a second generation Mexican-American pursuing a nursing degree, Kristine Gallardo recognizes that access to affordable care is an issue that affects most Americans. In addition, she believes multicultural representation in the healthcare industry is disproportionate, especially for Hispanics.
“I have seen many situations where healthcare providers pass off a patient by labeling him or her ‘noncompliant’ or ‘uncooperative,’ she says. “Often the problem is not a patient who won’t follow through, but simply that the patient is lost due to misunderstanding and confusion.”
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A significant motivation for Gallardo was knowing the challenges minorities face when in need of health care. This inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare. Ultimately, she wants to give back to the community that has given so much to her.
“Minority populations are stuck between the cultural barrier, the language barrier and the economic barrier,” she says. “I can relate to this population and help guide them with the knowledge I have gained through my formal training in nursing school.”
Kristine has seen additional barriers such as tuition hikes at colleges and universities and dramatic cuts to funding for education, which is forcing many students to find new ways to pay for higher education.
In an effort to ease these burdens and increase the number of underrepresented minorities in medicine, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women™ and Macy’s, its national sponsor, are offering the Go Red™ Multicultural Scholarship Fund.
The fund provides $2,500 scholarships for multicultural women pursuing college or graduate school degrees in healthcare fields. In addition to easing the financial burden for students, the American Heart Association and Macy’s are striving to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in medicine and increase quality culturally-sensitive, patient care.
The number of minority medical school graduates is increasing steadily, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. However, these numbers are still low compared with the population at large. For example, among 17,364 medical school graduates in 2011, 6.5 percent were black, 7.6 percent were Hispanic and 21.6 percent were Asian. Only 3.6 percent of Hispanic nurses in the nation are registered nurses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, minorities make up 36.6 percent of the U.S. population.
Despite the financial burdens of tuition, Kristine has continued to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Now in graduate school at Azusa Pacific University, she has received a Go Red™ Multicultural Scholarship for her academic excellence and her dedication and commitment to give back to her community by volunteering at a medical clinic that serves primarily Hispanics. It is this volunteer work, and the experiences of family members, that have opened her eyes to the major disparities that exist in the healthcare system and has motivated her to provide the under-served communities with quality culturally-sensitive, patient care.
Numerous ethnic groups—including Hispanics—are disproportionately affected by cardiovascular disease and risk factors. They also face barriers to diagnosis and care and experience worse health outcomes than Caucasians.
“Patients like to receive medical care by providers who can speak their same language and understand their cultural background,” said Celia Trigo, executive director and CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. “Meeting the needs of ethnically diverse patients leads not only to a better quality of care, but it also provides opportunities to improve the health of underserved minorities.”
For application requirements and to complete an application, visit the Go Red For Women website at: GoRedForWomen.org/Scholarship. The deadline to apply for 2014 scholarships is Dec. 31, 2013.