Diversifying Medicine


Two physicians discuss the unique experiences of Latino men in medicine and the crucial need for diversity.

Edited by Mary Zajac

Dr. Hector Mora and Dr. Christopher Gonzalez
Photos: Donovan Witmer (left), John Abbott (right)

Left to right: Dr. Hector Mora (M.D. ’21) and Dr. Christopher J. Gonzalez (M.S. ’21)

 Dr. Hector Mora (M.D. ’21) is the 2021 recipient of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Joan Severino Parisi Prize in Internal Medicine and the Pioneers in Diversity Ida Sophia Scudder, M.D. Award and the former president of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Black and Latino Men in Medicine (BLMiM).

Dr. Christopher J. Gonzalez (M.S. ’21), was the inaugural Health Equity Research Fellow at the Diversity Center of Excellence of the Cornell Center for Health Equity. He is a primary care internist whose research explores how to reduce cardiometabolic inequities among historically marginalized, predominantly Hispanic communities in the United States.

Challenges for Latino male physicians

Dr. Mora: Becoming a physician can be challenging for people like Chris and me because there is such a lack of representation among racial and ethnic minority groups who make up a significant part of the population but are underrepresented in the academic space. When I applied to medical school, there just weren’t that many upper classmen giving tours who looked like me, and neither did most of my professors.

In research published by members of BLMiM in 2022, we found it will take almost 100 years to reach ethnic and racial parity between the academic medical population of physicians and students and the actual U.S. population. And that’s only if we start taking action now.

That action starts with representation. I chose Weill Cornell Medicine to become a part of that change and make young Latino men see themselves in positions that are prestigious, well-paying and that give you some security, while also allowing you to make a huge difference in the lives of people.

Dr. Gonzalez: Statistically, Black and Latino men are underrepresented in medicine, and the numbers have remained stagnant over time. So, by virtue of having very few individuals who identify as Black or Latino men in medicine, there’s inevitably the opportunity for the people who have those identities to feel isolated. They just don’t see or hear people like them in those spaces. That was certainly true for me.

Why diversity in medicine is crucial

Dr. Mora: The physician-patient relationship is impacted by the way a patient feels with their doctor. The data bears this out: There are better outcomes when patients have stronger trust in their physicians, and patients tend to trust physicians who look like them.

Dr. Gonzalez: Black and Latino physicians tend to offer care in communities that have historically been marginalized and underserved. So diversifying medicine and the health care workforce is not only important to providing individual-level care, but also to making sure that the communities that historically have been neglected receive quality care.

Additionally, many Black and Latino men in medicine are also the first physicians in their families. As the first physicians in our own families, Hector and I have experienced significant transitions — in socioeconomic status and in long-term social and health benefits — because of our education. Diversifying medicine contributes to social mobilization and to countering structural racism. 

Why mentorship is important

Dr. Mora: At the end of my clerkship year, I became more involved in extracurricular activities, which is where I met Chris and learned about his experience doing health equity research. Since graduating medical school, we’ve kept in touch and discussed how I can continue to pursue my interest in mentoring and increasing diversity in medicine while practicing primary care. Chris was basically the perfect mentor because he had been through similar life challenges and made me feel like I could succeed. I’m very lucky to have him in my life, and I hope to continue to learn from him.

Dr. Gonzalez: Programs that facilitate mentorship for Black and Latino individuals are vital. The reality is that I was in Hector’s shoes not that long ago. I would not be the physician I am today had it not been for mentors who really stretched out their hands and not only supported and listened to me, but also pushed me forward and showed me they had bigger visions for me than I did for myself. I’ve always been passionate about health equity, but I could never have imagined that I would become a primary care physician using research to deliver more equitable health care.

Why cultural affinity groups matter

Dr. Mora: I got involved in Black and Latino Men in Medicine two years after Dr. Maurice Hinson founded it during his residency at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. He had this vision of wanting to bring together Black and Latino men of all ages and levels of training not only for mentorship but for networking and building a sense of community and family. It honestly made my medical school experience.

Dr. Gonzalez: As a first-generation physician, I had no examples of what a physician’s day-to-day looked like, the distribution of patient care versus administrative responsibilities versus research — until and because of cultural affinity and diversity, equity and inclusion groups, including BLMiM, where I met Hector. These 
are groups that provided me with mentors — many of them extraordinary Black and Latina women. It’s not just mentorship between Black and Latino men, it’s mentorship of  Black and Latino men that’s important.

What their relationship means to them

Dr. Gonzalez: Hector inspires me in every way. He’s consistently stepped up to be a leader. If he’s offered an opportunity, he takes it. I think that kind of bravery and ambition is extremely inspiring.

Dr. Mora: Chris has been an instrumental part of my journey through medical school and beyond. When I decided I wanted to do primary care, Chris got me involved with qualitative research projects that made me realize I don’t have to be doing heavy bench research to make a significant impact. It opened my eyes to the possibility of remaining in academics while seeing and treating patients, so I can help influence the national conversations about what we can do to increase diversity in medicine.

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