From Philly to Mexico: How the Macy Program helped him Realize a Dream
November 5, 2014
Established at the College of Nursing and Health Professions in 2011 by Roberta Waite, PhD, an associate professor and the Assistant Dean of Academic Integration and Evaluation of Community Programs, the Macy Undergraduate Leadership Program is designed to teach students how to be leaders, work as a team, make an impact, and to be culturally sensitive. The Program helped Perez define his passion, and he hopes to use his experience to act as a catalyst for change.
Perez’s journey began with a term paper on the Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization Puentes de Salud. While investigating the organization for his paper, Perez was able to learn more about the organization’s mission, structure, and impact.
Since 2003, Puentes de Salud has been offering preventative healthcare screenings, dental services, and educational programs to help the growing Latino community in South Philadelphia. A minority group which has been relatively underrepresented, the Latino community there now has access to healthcare services through Puentes de Salud. As a Mexican American, the organization’s mission has had an effect on Perez personally.
“My dream is to ultimately open up a healthcare clinic for undocumented Latinos in my parents’ hometown in Mexico and in my hometown of Passaic, New Jersey,” explained Perez. “Many of the Latino people are undocumented from where I come from and they don’t have health insurance or money to access basic healthcare.” Using the mission of Puentes de Salud as inspiration, Perez is hoping to establish a similar nonprofit to help those in his current and native communities.
The Macy Program introduced Perez to Steve Larson, MD, co-founder of Puentes de Salud and professor of Emergency Medicine at the nearby Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “Dr. Larson taught me the whole history of the organization and how it all began,” said Perez. Perez will have an opportunity to work hands-on with the organization, helping to deliver screenings, diabetes prevention, taking vitals, providing preventative care, and delivering educational resources and dental services to the South Philadelphia Latino community. He will also use his fluency in Spanish to offer better communication between providers and members of the Latino community.
For Perez, helping the people of Mexico is his ultimate drive. Using his knowledge gained from the Health Services Administration and Macy Programs, and from his experiences at Puentes de Salud, making his dream a reality is very much a possibility. “In Latin American countries, many don’t have any access to hospitals so they really need to rely on small scale clinics that are typically run on little funding, few resources, and volunteers. Setting up a clinic there would really help those people,” elaborated Perez.
“This was all generated by the opportunities I had in the Macy Program, which served as an outlet for learning different opinions and views in healthcare. The program helped me set a path because everyone who was in the program had different goals and dreams. Some students wanted to work with LGBTQ populations and others had different objectives. Mine was to help people access healthcare in my community,” he ended.
Perez recommends that students in the College of Nursing and Health Professions apply for the Macy Undergraduate Leadership Program. “It is unfortunate that not everyone can be in the program because it really is a unique opportunity for students,” said Perez. “These are people who are all working for a common goal and will all have an impact in healthcare one day.”
by Niket Subhedar '14