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Doctora Gringa

Hola, buenas buenas, soy Doctora Gringa. ¿Cuál es el motivo de su visita hoy?

Hi, good morning good morning, I’m Doctor Gringa. What brings you to clinic today?

I have studied Spanish language and Latinx cultures for the past 13 years. I lived in Central and South America to learn medical Spanish and Latin American history. My favorite songs right now are coming straight out of the Pop Con Fuego playlist on Spotify.

Pero like I said… soy gringa, soy gata, soy yanqui.

My family is the kind that thinks black pepper is spicy. It is rather exotic among anyone I grew up around to speak anything but “Murican.” I am not Latina.

I’ve always studied things because I enjoy learning, Spanish included. Then, I got to medical school. I saw the tension vanish from a Latino patient’s face when I introduced myself in Spanish.  Speaking Spanish, I realized, was the most important skill I have. The first time I saw someone receive worse patient care because of the “inconvenience” of their language to the medical team, this passion got some real fire behind it.

Me da lastima, I am so sorry that there aren’t more Latinx physicians, and that whitebread people like me step in to provide care for your communities. I’m better than nothing, but there is a ceiling to the quality I can provide. I will never stop working to equip myself to provide the most compassionate, culturally competent care possible, but I worry it’s not as good. It’s sort of a gringa imposter syndrome, I guess.

Whole Foods is more familiar to me than bodegas, but I know how to counsel about cutting back on comida chatarra. I’m not Catholic, but I know how to tell when my teenage patients need mom to step out of the room for a second so I can teach safe sex practices. People calling immigration officers on laboring mothers usually look like me, but you’d only see me protesting immigrant detention centers.

I see the divide—the mistrust—between the people in the white coats and the people in the waiting room. Medicine is not diverse enough for our patients, and I fear that I’m part of the problem. I do what I can to check the many privileges I have. I’m always inquiring and reviewing and learning. I try to learn how to advocate and heal and educate no matter what the patient looks like. What they speak or don’t speak. What papers they do or don’t have.

I promise to always argue with the old lady on the plane who doesn’t understand why “they can’t just learn English.” I promise to make sure the clinic paperwork and handouts are available in multiple languages. I promise to advocate for increased representation of Latinos in medicine. Everyone deserves compassionate, equally excellent care, and se lo juro, I swear to you, this gringa won’t stop trying to make it happen.

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