A Cultural Way to Get Latino Kids Interested in Health Careers


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The U.S. Latino population has grown 243% since 1980. But the number of Latino doctors dropped 22%, a study found.

That’s why we need programs like Roots to Wings.

The innovative Roots to Wings program teams up Latino and Native American middle- and high-schoolers in Washington schools with medical students at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.

Kids getting on-the-job demonstrations of health activities as part of Roots to Wings.

The teams then “co-mentor” each other.


The kids teach the medical students about their Mexican-American or Yakama Nation heritage.

The medical students teach the kids about medicine and pursuing higher education.

“Roots to Wings is actually an educational pathway for underrepresented youth to enter the health sciences,” Dr. Mirna Ramos-Diaz, who leads the program, recently told the Yakima Herald. “It makes a huge difference in someone’s medical care if I understand your native traditions and values, and I can speak your language.”

roots to wings students
Roots to Wings participants.

The program worked with Yakama Nation tribal leaders and Latino teachers to build a curriculum. The program mixes traditional cultural dance events with demonstrative lab or clinic lessons on issues like sugar and diabetes, according to the Yakima Herald. The kids in Mt. Adams schools meet with the medical students once a month.

Roots to Wings helps the medical students learn the challenges of providing care to the underserved. It also stirs their desire to serve as doctors in rural communities.

It helps the kids gain academic confidence, and stay true to their values and traditions.

“By keeping culture front and center, directors of the program aim to show the young students that they are welcome and wanted in the medical field,” according to the Yakima Herald article.

Can you start a Roots to Wings program in your schools? Email the staff of Roots to Wings for help!

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latino parents support public funding for afterschool programs

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