Carver College of Medicine Latinx Faculty Council works to improve representation

The council, in its organization phase, is working to get all Hispanics and Latinx people involved in the hospital.



Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine recently established the Latinx Faculty Council to bring together faculty members to serve the broader Latinx and Hispanic community and improve representation in the health sciences.

Tahuanty Peña, clinical associate professor of internal medicine, is currently serving as the president of the new council.

“I’m very attracted to the concept of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion. Though I carry that title, in reality this is a joint effort by the whole council, and we are dividing the efforts equally to achieve our goals,” Peña said.

Peña said the council is working with the UI Latinx Council to plan to mentor pre-med students and College of Medicine faculty and students in the future.

“In the organization process, efforts include to get many Hispanic and Latinos engaged in the hospital,” he said.

The council stemmed from the UI Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Carver College of Medicine and the model of the African American Council that was formed at the Carver College of Medicine a few years ago. The council is currently meeting on a monthly basis.

The faculty council was initiated after the hospital sent a survey to gather interests from Hispanic and Latino/a/x faculty. He said it is the first council of its kind to be implemented in the Carver College of Medicine.

“The staff gathered interest from Hispanic and Latinx faculty, and immediately there was a lot of interest,” Peña said.

Peña said a little over 40 percent of the faculty and staff at UI Hospitals and Clinics identify as Hispanic and Latino/a/x.  This is based only upon self-identification, the number could be higher because this question is not always answered, Peña said.

Adrian Silva, lead Spanish interpreter at UIHC, immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 8, so he stressed the importance of representing underrepresented people.

“The worries of patients aren’t heard sometimes due to miscommunications from Spanish to English, sometimes when the doctors leave the room patients are more confused than when they came, they have more questions, and are concerned the doctors did not get what information they needed to,” Silva said.

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Improving representation throughout the hospital is a goal for the Latinx Council.

“University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics strive to provide world class medicine to all populations and cultures,” Silva said.

Maria Bruno, executive director for belonging and assistant to the Vice President for Student Life and member of the UI Latinx Council also stressed the importance of a Carver College of Medicine Latinx Council.

Bruno served as the Chair of University of Iowa’s Latinx Council in 2018-2019.

She said the Latinx Council was designed to bring staff and faculty together at a predominantly white institution. Bruno said the council offers a community and increased faculty retention to serve the institution as well.

“The more people that can focus on these things the better. There’s more power in numbers and communication,” Bruno said.

Peña said creating an inclusive and diverse environment starts with individual people making an effort to create change.

“I believe that if we truly want to create more diversity, equity, and inclusion, then we need to be proactive about it and create conscious efforts to lead the change,” Peña said. “These efforts need to happen in our personal lives, our communities, our workplaces, and other environments. If we approach it that way, I think we truly have a chance of making things better.”