El Paso medical school dean discusses broader meaning of diversity in Shannon Lectureship

Jose Manuel de la Rosa, M.D.
Jose Manuel de la Rosa, M.D.

Diversity in health care isn’t about meeting the needs of an ethnicity or a single culture, said Jose Manuel de la Rosa, M.D., founding dean of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and vice president for health affairs at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso.

“It’s much broader and is about open access,” de la Rosa told the audience attending the UMKC School of Medicine’s annual Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Lectureship in Minority Health on Friday, Feb. 15. “Now, we talk about celebrating our differences.”

De la Rosa’s school accepted its inaugural class of first-year medical students in 2009 and soon discovered that diversity would mean more than serving the Hispanic community in and around El Paso.

It quickly became evident, he said, that the diversity he sought for this new school in a city of 650,000 surrounded by colonias — rural Hispanic settlements along the United States-Mexico border, would only come with open discussions about such things as socioeconomic and ethnic diversity.

“We need to have the conversations so that we can have that understanding of what it means to be African American in Kansas City, Hispanic in El Paso, Jewish in wherever you want to be, so that our students and our residents can serve the community they are in,” de la Rosa said.

A native of El Paso, de la Rosa’s long-time community involvement led to creating four school-based clinics to provide services to colonia residents in El Paso’s lower valley. He said it is a focus of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine to teach students not only medicine, but also to serve as role models in the community and as community leaders.

“It is the medical students that are approaching life in a different way,” de la Rosa said. “And it is our generational obligation to teach them to serve any and all communities regardless of whether they’re in El Paso, downtown, or in the shanty towns of El Paso.”

De la Rosa said his medical school has the same goals as every other medical school in the United States but with the added goal to conscientiously serve the community.

“We don’t do anything differently from anyone else,” de la Rosa said. “The difference, the underpinning, the motivation, is the conscious decision to do it for the good of the community.”

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