Episode 18: Promoting Latinx culture in veterinary medicine

October 1, 2020
dvm360 Staff

In this episode of The Vet Blast Podcast, second-year veterinary student Mariacamila Garcia Estrella reflects on her journey as a Latinx veterinary student and discusses recent efforts to educate veterinary students about Latinx culture and the Spanish language.

Being a minority in a predominately White veterinary space can feel a bit alienating at times, says Mariacamila Garcia Estrella, a Colombian-born second-year veterinary student at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“That imposter syndrome is constantly present. You start to question your role at the institution and whether you’re there to fill a quota or be the token minority,” she tells Dr. Christman. “It’s just having to deal with pushing those negative thoughts out of my head. A lot of it is mental.”

But Garcia Estrella, who's also co-president of Cornell’s first-ever chapter of the Latinx Veterinary Medical Association, says she’s fortunate to have established great friendships in her program. Now through her work with the LVMA, she’s helping to expand the Latinx community and educate fellow students about Latinx pet owner cultural differences so that they can better serve this client population in the future.

In a lot of Latino cultures, neutering dogs, for example, isn’t something that is typically done, says Garcia Estrella. Additionally, some Latino families may give their pets food scraps, not the traditional kibble diet, she adds.

“It’s about being able to meet the client where they’re at and not dismissing their cultural values…just working with them to find a good compromise that’s keeping in mind the health of the pet ultimately," she says.

The Cornell chapter of the LVMA also hosted Spanish communication workshops this past summer, allowing veterinary students the unique opportunity to learn about Latinx culture and how to speak the Spanish language, says Garcia Estrella.

“Our goal was to use Spanish as a tool from communication and for understanding the culture of many Latinos in the US,” says Garcia Estrella.

Every lecture was structured to discuss culture first then introduce useful vocabulary phrases, explains Garcia Estrella. Students were also split into groups where they practiced Latinx cultural dialogues between a “veterinarian” and a “client.”

“We also provided little quizzes for students to be able to practice the vocabulary with the pronunciation of the words. It’s been a lot of fun.”

To learn more about Garcia Estrella‘s work with the LVMA, plus some other fun facts about her, listen below.