Bryan Morales-Vargas, MD, a neuorpathology fellow at Emory University, grew up in Puerto Rico, and now, living in the U.S., appreciates the perspective he’s gained on his heritage. “We’re very passionate about ourselves, never shy away from showing it. It’s just who we are,” he says. In this Q&A, he shares his thoughts on diversity in the laboratory and healthcare issues that affect the Hispanic and Latinx communities.
Why is diversity in leadership critical to the success of a laboratory?
As with any field, the multiple ethnicities and cultures in our laboratories ultimately reflect the reality of 2022. We’re fortunate enough to share our duty to provide adequate patient care, while learning and appreciating different perspectives. At the end of the day, what we do in the laboratory, we do as a team. And though this starts, often, with a sample, it ends with a result impacting a patient. So, to me, embracing diversity can facilitate the workflow and foster a better working environment.
What are some of the systemic healthcare challenges that affect Hispanic and Latinx people, and what role can the laboratory play in addressing them
This pandemic has certainly highlighted that access to healthcare (ie, testing, treatment) still disproportionally affects our Hispanic folks. While I think representation and hence advocating for policy changes can positively impact these challenges, we as physicians can individually help our communities. My proposal is simple: join a local organization that helps minorities, donate time or money; sometimes a simple interaction with a Spanish-fluent physician can certainly improve a patient’s day.
How can the health professionals widen their understanding about Hispanic and Latinx communities?
I think it’s important to listen. We must recognize some of our biases and, with them in mind, learn what the biggest issues affecting our communities are. We connect well with people, we’re very sociable, cordial, and friendly.
How did you learn about Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and what do you enjoy the most about working in this field?
My first exposure to Pathology and Laboratory Medicine was in medical school. In fact, our best teachers were all pathologists, which obviously inspired me to pursue a career in this field. Right now, I’m focused on learning neuropathology, hoping in the near future I can contribute to patient care and to a very exciting and growing field.
If you could give one or two pieces of advice to your younger colleagues, what would you say?
To the younger trainees, enjoy your residency, give yourself the opportunity to be curious and make mistakes. Those years can go by really fast and it’s essential to learn as much as possible.
If you could achieve just one or two major goals in the next 10 years, what would they be?
I would love to be involved in residency education in some form or shape. So much of what we do relies on learning the intricacies and nuances of diagnostics, which can only be learned from experienced physicians. Though it may seem small, teaching what we do to an aspiring trainee is something I would be proud of.