2021 AL DÍA Top Doctors: A celebration of diversity in medicine unlike any other
This year’s virtual event honored 12 Latino physicians in the region advancing the cause of health for the diverse communities they serve.
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This past year has taught us many things. Perhaps the most prevalent thing that the past year has taught us is the importance of our medical professionals.
The 2021 AL DÍA Top Doctors was a celebration and a show of appreciation for the very individuals who are advancing the health of the diverse communities that make up the tri-state area.
At the virtual event this year, AL DÍA honored 12 medical professionals of Latino descent at the top healthcare organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. These individuals represent the diverse doctors who are providing crucial care to the diverse communities of patients and families that make up our population.
This year’s honorees, as nominated by their peers, were: Dr. Johanna Vidal-Phelan, Dr. Generosa Grana, Dr. Sadia Benzaquen, Dr. Hector Colon-Rivera, Dr. Iris Reyes, Dr. Juan Diaz Quinones, Dr. Rita Guevara, Dr. J. Eduardo Rame, Dr. Fermin Garcia and Dr. Christian Pizarro as Top Doctors; Dr. Bryan Romero as the Emerging Leader; and Dr. Jose Bossbaly as the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
Each honoree has their own unique, personal backstories and journeys that have led them to the position they are in today, yet they all share the distinct qualities of selflessness, dedication, compassion, empathy, resilience and the strong desire to simply help others and keep the medical profession moving forward for next generations to come.
One such example is Dr. Iris Reyes, professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Nearly a decade ago, she founded the UPHS-CHOP Alliance of Minority Physicians. Its mission is to develop leaders in the field of medicine from underrepresented communities.
Since it was founded, the alliance has helped expand the level of diversity at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn.
“I am proud to work alongside such talented and passionate medical students, trainees and faculty who seek to change the status quo,” said Reyes.
“I encourage my Latinx colleagues to never stop advocating for those who follow,” she added. “We have to verse a difficult journey and it’s on us to make that journey less challenging for those who long to step into our shoes.”
These doctors understand the many barriers that Latino and other diverse communities face, including language, economic or cultural barriers, and strive to make a difference in mitigating those challenges.
The next generation of Latino physicians will be heavily influenced by the efforts and actions of the current generation’s.
That message was expressed by Dr. Johanna Vidal-Phelan, who has taken an invested interest in helping guide and mentor the next generation, and growing the level of representation in the field.
“We need to continue investing in our community, we need to continue mentoring the next generation so that we can continue growing the representation of minorities in healthcare and in healthcare leadership,” she said.
Dr. Fermin Garcia shared a similar message.
“I want to encourage younger generations, especially those of minority origin and Latino doctors to be proud of your heritage and background, to trust in your knowledge and to push the limits of imagination because everything is possible,” he said.
A doctor’s work is also heavily dependent on their patients. In addition to the many years of learning and training in the field of medicine, much is learned with direction interaction with patients.
“I learned everything that I know about medicine from [patients] and because of them, I have become the kind of physician that I am today,” said Dr. Sadia Benzaquen.
For Dr. Bossbaly, he has been a staple in Philadelphia, providing care to the Hispanic community.
When he first arrived in the city, he said there were about 89,000 individuals who identify as Hispanic. However, he noticed a glaring absence of primary care physicians within the Hispanic community, which can often lead to negative health outcomes.
“For me, I saw that as an opportunity to try to bridge that divide,” said Bossbaly.
While the Hispanic population in the city has more than doubled since then, it hasn’t been reflected to the same degree in terms of the number of Hispanic care physicians or services.
“We are still at a distinct disadvantage. The reality is we need more doctors to fill that void,” added Bossbaly.
When Dr. Bossbaly looks back at his 34-plus years in Philadelphia, if there is one thing he has prided himself on, it’s being present in any capacity in which he was needed, and meeting each patient where they were.
“The most important thing was for me to be present and to give them my time," he said.
The 2021 AL DÍA Top Doctors event was a celebration of health, diversity, equity and service within the medical profession.