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Upstate celebrates Hispanics in healthcare

SUNY Upstate Medical University and the Spanish Action League are collaborating to celebrate October as Hispanic Heritage Month with a special focus. "This monthlong celebration will help us recognize the Hispanic healthcare professionals who are working in hospitals, nursing homes, doctors' offices and other healthcare settings throughout Central New York," says Rita Paniagua, assistant director of the Spanish Action League.

The collaboration has also been joined to showcase healthcare careers and medical education to the Hispanic community. Edgar Johnson of SUNY Upstate's Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action maintains, "The opportunities for Hispanics who are interested in working in the healthcare community are endless." Upstate hopes to target its message especially to those who are unemployed and can go back to school to be retrained.

In some areas, the collaboration is spotlighting breakthroughs. Esmeralda Morfa, an Upstate doctoral student in Physical Therapy, notes that she is the only Hispanic in her program.

"When I was in high school my mom got hurt and needed physical therapy," she says. "There aren't many Hispanics in the field. I grew up in New York and there weren't many there. We need them in our neighborhoods, especially bilingual."

Morfa encourages Hispanics to look into opportunities and the availability of training in her field. "It's an open market," she notes. "There's always jobs."

Upstate and la Liga got the celebration off to an early start with opening ceremonies Sept. 15 at the Institute for Human Performance on Irving Avenue. Syracuse artist Miguel Mendez unveiled a 5x7 foot mural honoring Hispanic healthcare employees, which will be displayed at various Hispanic Heritage Month events.

Highlights of the month include a Health Fair, Saturday, Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Lucy's Church, 425 Gifford St. Recruiters for nursing and other healthcare positions will be on site as well as representatives of various medical educational programs.

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