Rosalina Penaloza – LatPro Scholarship Finalist for April 2012

How did you choose your major? What obstacles have you had to overcome and what will it mean to you to graduate with this degree?

Rosalina 3My childhood memories are many and although I remember it being very lonely because my father was always working and hardly ever home, I remember it being very happy. It’s the innocence that comes with being a child that was able to mask all the negative thoughts and sadness that surrounded me. As I grew, I began to realize that my reality was different. People suffered from job scarcity, lack of money, and the inability to attain good quality health.

I come from a family of nine and therefore, money has always been an issue. Growing up my father worked two shifts everyday to support me and my brothers. A couple years ago, our family struggled to keep the house, but nothing will compare to the struggle my family faced coping with the loss of a loved family member. Despite, the lack of money and the harsh reality that we were living, my father did not want us to work, instead he wanted us to get an education and better ourselves so that we could then help the community that nourished us when we were growing up. Four of us are currently in college and on our way to pursuing our dreams. It has not been easy living away from home and being the first in the family to go to college. But I have always had the support of my parents and that has made this journey a smoother one.

Denis Diderot, believed that “only great passions can elevate the soul to great things”. Many things in life can uplift the human body: money, pleasure, power, etc. but to lift the soul, requires a more intimate motivation. Passions, and only great passions, can make people act in ways never before seen, it can make people believe in the “impossible” and can serve to inspire others. Although I did not come from a professional background, I was motivated and inspired by my passion for medicine and my passion for the well being of my community, to earn an education and to become a strong advocate of health for underserved communities.

Over history, minorities and the poor have been disproportionately affected by a large number of developmental diseases, chronic diseases, and birth defects. Growing up, it was very difficult to see how families struggled to cope with a child who was immuno- deficient or to see how the STD statistics were rising for African Americans. By thinking about these things and actually “living” this reality, I learned to understand the needs of my community. I learned that our current health system is inaccessible to the needs of minority groups. Financial, physical, geographical, and temporal barriers are currently omnipresent. Although they have been addressed by many health care advocates, an action plan needs to be executed by people who understand the struggles of the Latino community.

Having been part of the Ujima project, Planned Parenthood I was certain that a public health major would help me achieve my dreams of reaching out to communities with information and services that would enable them to cultivate healthier lives and that would help erase the health disparities in this nation. One of my duties as peer-advocate involved speaking to people about human sexuality and birth control. Through our health fairs, skits, and healthy love parties we helped educate our communities about human anatomy, prevention, planning, and free health services. The “I know campaign” made our efforts extend to the entire state.

Although I have struggled financially and have seen how inaccessible our current health care system can be I am confident that change is possible and that I am capable of contributing to that change. Studies have shown that the lack of cultural diversity in the health workforce limits the scope of health care agenda and reduces the efficiency of our health system. To deliver care effectively, providers need to have a firm understanding of the needs, the language, beliefs, and cultural practices of their patients. A clear solution to this problem is increasing the pool of minority health providers. As an advocate of preventative medicine and a strong supporter of affordable quality health care I am motivated to learn the most that I can to help make a healthier and more productive minority population. As a health care provider, I will work hard to increase awareness of preventable diseases. I will serve the under served and will work to erase barriers to achieving good quality health.’s scholarship program for Hispanic students is proud to announce Rosalina Penaloza as one of the three finalists for its April deadline application. Vote for her essay by clicking the thumbs up button at the bottom of the page, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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