Doctors Transforming Our Reality: The Emeritus and the Emerging Leader
Dr. Daniel Schidlow and Jordan Juarez are at opposite ends of their careers in healthcare, but still work towards the same mission.
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Dr. Daniel Schidlow has been a part of AL DÍA’s Top Doctors ceremony since its inception more than five years ago. At the 2023 ceremony on June 12, 2023, he will be part of it in a way he never has before.
In the years since Schidlow helped conceptualize the Philly region’s premiere recognition for Latino physicians of all specialties, he’s sat on many advisory boards, nominated more than a few of his fellow doctors and personally honored them at ceremonies in the past as an MC or special speaker.
But in 2023, off of any advisory board duty, Schidlow will be recognized with the AL DÍA Top Doctors Lifetime Achievement Award for a career that’s spanned more than 50 years as a physician.
“It is a lifetime,” Schidlow reflected in a recent interview with AL DÍA, and one he has been honored for before. He even has a faculty award named after him at Drexel’s College of Medicine, which he led for eight years between 2011 and 2019, for transformational leadership.
Schidlow is grateful for them all, but there’s something extra special about the AL DÍA award and it’s not because he helped create it.
“The recognition of my Latino peers means more to me than perhaps the recognition of anybody else,” he said.
In doing so, it also puts his name rightfully in the overarching Latino narrative of Philadelphia, which to him is “truly moving and significant.”
The dean who stayed
It’s also a narrative Schidlow continues to tell at Drexel himself and through the aspiring Latino doctors he mentors.
“I feel very strongly about the College of Medicine and my commitment to it,” said Schidlow.
He’s Dean Emeritus these days, but before leaving his leadership post in 2019, Schidlow expressed a desire to return to the school’s faculty and help in any way he could. The school obliged, and in addition to being a mentor to many students and faculty alike, Schidlow also helps by teaching some courses at both the college’s main campus in Philadelphia and its new regional branch campus in Reading, PA.
“I feel pretty busy all the time,” Schidlow said.
The latter campus is also one he was instrumental in creating in his time as dean, and added another 40 students to the college’s overall enrollment.
While not the reason Drexel expanded its medical school to Reading, the city is also home to a population that’s close to 70% Latino and rising.
The Latino “asset”
The rise of the Latino population across the country is something Schidlow’s seen through the lens of both a doctor and academic leader.
When he first arrived from Chile for a residency at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in New York, Schidlow remembers all of his fellow Latino doctors also having a similar immigrant story to his own. In 2023, there are still a number of immigrants from Latin America that arrive as doctors or to train towards a medical degree, but a growing number are U.S.-born and educated.
In addition to students, Schidlow said he’s also seen growth over his career in the number of Latinos rising to leadership positions in the field.
“I don’t think we have enough yet,” Schidlow said of the number of Latino physicians in the U.S., but their priority is high alongside doctors from other underrepresented communities
“To be a Latino physician, particularly one that speaks Spanish, is a tremendous asset,” he continued.
His own Hispanic heritage is something Schidlow previously called in an interview with AL DÍA his “best and most important asset.”
The Emerging Leader
Someone who’s part of that next generation of Latino physicians with the potential to change the whole of healthcare in the country is Jordan Juarez, the Emerging Leader at AL DÍA’s 2023 Top Doctors Awards.
Juarez is part of what Schidlow identified as the growing number of U.S.-born and educated Latinos pursuing careers in medicine. He’s a native of Chula Vista, California and was born into a big Mexican American family — he has seven siblings for the record.
His dad was born in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, while his mom was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Escuinapa, Sinaloa, Mexico. It’s the story of his grandmother on his mom’s side that would push Juarez to pursue a career in medicine.
Originally from Escuinapa too, Juarez’s grandmother immigrated to Los Angeles in the 1960s, where she would take up work as a factory seamstress.
It was low wage, and she also didn’t command the English language, meaning her access to things like healthcare were extremely limited — with any information on the health front coming from her community. In the long run, that dynamic led Juarez’s grandmother to develop type II diabetes. It’s a manageable ailment now according to him, but her path there got him reflecting.
“That was an inspiration for me, thinking back then that there are certain individuals who are underserved, who don’t have all the same resources that other members of society may have, and that puts them at higher risk to develop these conditions,” Juarez told AL DÍA in a recent interview.
In the healthcare system of 2023, language barriers like the one Juarez’s grandmother faced are under the banner of social determinants of health, and it’s become Juarez’s mission to bridge the gaps they create in his own burgeoning medical career.
Statistics also play a role in his motivation. Currently around 6% of all active physicians in the U.S. are Latino — a number Juarez looks to change.
His first step on what he envisions now as a career in medicine on an academic track, started as a pre-med sophomore at the University of Southern California (USC). It was then that he first encountered the Latino Medical Students Association (LMSA) via a flier he saw for one of its events.
“It was during this event with LMSA that really changed my life, and opened my eyes to all that there is in medicine and healthcare that we can do to support our communities,” said Juarez.
It was also the first time he met other Latino medical students that were talking about the issues and disparities he knew to be true when it comes to the Latino community interacting with the U.S. healthcare system.
In short, he had to get involved, and did so as an undergrad by founding USC Latino Students in Medicine — a student organization for Latino undergraduate students hoping to get into medical school.
When Juarez himself got into medical school at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, the institution’s LMSA local chapter was something he immediately got involved with. He became the branch’s co-president, and would rise within the regional and national LMSA organization over his years in medical school.
Juarez went from co-director for the Northeast Region of LMSA to now being named the chief financial officer of the national LMSA organization.
In his pursuit of a career in medicine from an academic standpoint, Juarez also recently completed the yearlong National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medical Research Scholars Program. The experience saw Juarez look at population health from a national perspective, and particularly analyze how social determinants of health impact minority communities across the country.
“It was the first time that this was the singular focus of the research that we were conducting,” he said. “I had been involved with other projects where we looked at health disparities, but this was our main focus in my NIH new lab.”
Throughout it all — both his experience in the NIH program and LMSA — Juarez is always first to credit the mentors that have guided him along the way.
“This has all been a team effort,” he said. “I've been fortunate to have excellent mentors, both at the student and faculty level [and] we've all been able to come together and try to address these ongoing challenges.”
That’s also Juarez’s advice to anyone who wants to follow his path — to seek mentors.
Remembering one’s roots
For Schidlow, who’s very much in the business of giving advice these days as dean emeritus, there’s three major pieces for all, and a fourth for the Latino students that cross his path.
First and second, embrace the hard work that will come with medical school and learn when to ask for help.
“The best doctor is not the one who knows everything because nobody knows everything,” Schidlow said on the last point.
Third, stay positive no matter the situation, and for Latino doctors in particular, the message is simple:
“Don’t forget where you come from,” he said. “Most of us stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us, who didn’t have it as easy.”
The story of Schidlow’s parents is the story of an escape from Nazi Germany “at the last minute,” and arriving in Chile, “which they knew nothing about.”
It’s there where Schidlow was born and eventually began his career as a physician before making the jump to the U.S.
Juarez’s jump to the U.S. was made by his grandmother and parents, but her struggle with the language in an unfamiliar land and need to make it work for her family is a story that’s real across all generations.
In the same way Schidlow wrote the next chapter of his family’s story as a doctor in Chile and the U.S. for the last 50 years, Juarez has the pen in his hand as you read the words on this page.