Medical students learned a lesson early on: ‘Health surpasses medicine’


Juan Medina-Echeverria's growing up experience inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.  (Photo credit: Juan Medina-Echeverria)
Juan Medina-Echeverria’s growing up experience inspired him to pursue a career in medicine. (Photo credit: Juan Medina-Echeverria)

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Multitasking is Juan Medina-Echeverria’s way of life. He is her husband, father of two children, and her sophomore medical student who lives near Chicago. He often listens to class while jogging on his treadmill, and every hour of lecture he equates to six to seven miles. “I’m killing two birds with one stone,” he said.

As a child, I didn’t get much exercise in the San Francisco Bay Area where I was born and raised. The low-income community he grew up in lacked facilities such as tracks, basketball his courts, and parks.

“Finding a place to exercise in a safe way was tough,” he said. “I’ve battled my weight my whole life.”

Juan’s parents, who were undocumented immigrants, also urged him and his two siblings to keep a low profile and avoid activities such as sports that could draw unwanted attention. . His parents worked minimum wage jobs and had no health insurance. Because they were not financially stable, they often chose cheaper processed foods over healthier options. Juan says this contributed to his father’s hypertension diagnosis in his 30s. His mother was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

“We knew it was a problem, but we didn’t have the knowledge to talk about it because there was no one to lead the discussion. Health goes beyond medicine. It starts at the community level.” .”

It became clear to him at an early age. When Juan was in elementary school, his father delayed treatment for his facial sagging because he did not have insurance. Increasingly concerned, Juan consulted medical school textbooks at his school and wondered if his father had Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder that can cause facial paralysis.

He eventually convinced his father to seek medical attention, and a doctor confirmed his amateur diagnosis. “Like a puzzle”

That feeling inspired Huang to pursue medicine. He started down that path when he became a certified nursing assistant in high school. He began taking pre-med courses in college, but discontinued when his wife became pregnant with his first child. Instead, he earned his nursing license at age 19, continued to take classes, and eventually graduated with a degree in public health/epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley. He then completed his master’s degree in biomedicine, and in 2021, Rosalind, a private school in the northern suburbs of Chicago, will enroll at Franklin University Chicago Medical School.

Juan Medina-Echeverria (right) and his wife, Victoria.  (Photo credit: Juan Medina-Echeverria)
Juan Medina-Echeverria (right) and his wife, Victoria. (Photo credit: Juan Medina-Echeverria)

“I have real experience in hospitals, so it brings a different perspective to medicine,” he said.

Aware of these disparities, Juan sought leadership roles throughout his academic career, becoming the first Mexican-American president of his medical school class, co-president of the Latino Medical Students Association, and the medical school’s diversity advisory board. I have been a member of the association. .

He was also selected as a Scholar of the American Heart Association’s National Hispanic-Latino Cardiovascular Community, an advocacy program aimed at promoting the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke within the Hispanic community. .

Hector Rasgado Flores, a professor of physiology and biophysics at the medical school who is also a member of the diversity advisory board, credits Juan’s drive, endurance, intelligence, and humility as contributing to his success. . “He is already becoming a role model for his community, and we are very proud to welcome him to our medical school,” said Rasgado-Flores.

Rasgado-Flores hopes Juan and others like him will inspire young people from resource-poor communities to pursue careers in healthcare.

People connect better with health professionals who are “related either by culture, language, or life experience,” Rasgado-Flores said. “The shameful lack of diversity in medicine and higher education is that we are missing a vital resource of life experience – the richness of thought and creativity that comes with it.”

In addition to his leadership role, in 2022 Juan completed an orthopedic internship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. As a physician, I hope to bridge the gap between cardiovascular and bone health. “You can’t exercise and live a healthy life if your bones and muscles aren’t working properly,” he said.

Clockwise from top: Juan Medina Echeverría with his wife Victoria and children Giovanni and Sophia.  (Photo credit: Juan Medina-Echeverria)
Clockwise from top: Juan Medina Echeverría with his wife Victoria and children Giovanni and Sophia. (Photo credit: Juan Medina-Echeverria)

Eager to educate young people about health care, Juan and his classmates set up a “mini-medical school” for dozens of fourth and fifth graders in the underresourced community of North Chicago. held. Starting in November 2021, he showed children how to perform his CPR and spoke on health topics ranging from heart health to mental health in weekly programs that ran through February 2022. (Juan’s 10-year-old son, Giovanni, attended his follow-up event.)

After the event, the children were presented with white coats, symbolizing knowledge, purity and trust. “I hope it gives them the motivation to pursue a career in medicine.



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