To mark the close of 2023 National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we’ve gathered the four pieces that were written by MEDEX Northwest faculty, staff and students and posted weekly on MEDEX Facebook over the course of the month. We sought out these first-person narratives as a way to highlight some of the Hispanic, AfroLatino/a/x and Latin American experiences that inform the texture of our extended MEDEX family. Read together, they remind us of the power of community, and of the importance of family, expectations, sacrifice, hope, language, identity, and just plain hard work in shaping that power.

Many thanks to Lizbeth Acevedo, a MEDEX student in Seattle class 57, Fortunato Placencia, a MEDEX student in Seattle Class 56, Dalia Susana, a MEDEX staff member and Executive Assistant to the MEDEX Northwest Administrative Team, and Ted Parker, a MEDEX Faculty Fellow at the Seattle campus and a graduate of Seattle Class 55.

Lizbeth Acevedo, Student, MEDEX Seattle Class 57

Lizbeth Acevedo with her father Salvador.
I was born in Tijuana, Mexico, where I discovered that my roots ran deeper than the city’s streets and vibrant culture. I carry within me the rich traditions and values of my Oaxacan heritage, which have shaped the very essence of who I am today. My roots, intertwined with the story of my family’s journey, ignited my passion for this career.
Both of my parents were born in a very small rural town in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. My father left Oaxaca in his younger years to provide a better future for my siblings and mother. He was a migratory agricultural worker, meaning that his residency was aligned with the agricultural seasons, moving from California to Oregon and even to Yakima, Washington.
Fortunately, he was eventually able to obtain his permanent residency through his work, and bring his family closer to him, which meant Tijuana. Then, when I was four years old, we immigrated to San Diego, California, where I grew up and spent most of my life.
I was fluent in Spanish and English by the age of seven and was translating for my family as much as a child could. And although I would always complain and ask why a 7-year-old had so much responsibility, I’m now thankful because it helped to shape me into a compassionate, sensitive, caring woman.
Observing the language barrier my parents experienced and that others continue to experience is what brought me into this field. If I’m able to speak the language of the person in front of me, then I can ease the anxiety of a 7-year-old accompanying their parents to their medical appointment. As they hear me speak, the child will then realize that they are only there for support, not to be a translator.
As years pass by, I also yearn to learn my father’s Mixtec dialect. This is not simply about becoming more culturally sensitive; it’s about reaching out to those who may feel isolated by language and ensuring that they have a voice in their healthcare and beyond.
Everything I do, every step I take in my career, is driven by a purpose: to ensure that young Oaxacan girls just like me can to pursue higher education and defy the odds stacked against them. My hope is that they won’t have to navigate the same language barriers and responsibilities that I did as a child. I aspire to be a source of inspiration, guidance, and support for these young minds, showing them that their dreams are not only valid but achievable.
Lisbeth Avecedo (left), with her mother Leticia and father Salvador.

Fortunato Placencia, Student, MEDEX Seattle Class 56

Fortunato Placencia on the University of Washington Seattle campus.
My name is Fortunato Placencia, first-generation Mexican American born in Bakersfield, California, raised here in Washington my whole life. My parents were field workers who emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico to raise a family here in the States away from poverty. All they ever wanted was to provide a better life for us with more opportunities than they had, and I have always been grateful for their sacrifice. I have three older brothers, making me the baby of the family. I’m also the first to go to college, which is something I am really proud of.
My parents also instilled in me the value of giving back to the less fortunate. Whether it was helping them make tamales for a church fundraiser or collecting my change to donate for the poor, I learned to help those in need. I knew I wanted a career that could combine my education, cultural background, and values.
My Mexican heritage is something that means a lot to me, and my parents made sure to emphasize traditional values such as familism, respect of elders, religion, and speaking your native language. I grew up speaking Spanish around the house and was an ESL (English as a second language) student all through elementary and middle school. To this day I am still working on improving my reading and writing. My parents emphasized the importance of being bilingual not just to be their personal translator but also to help others in whatever future career I chose.
Immediately after high school, I volunteered at my local fire department as an EMT, which opened my eyes to healthcare. I was the only Spanish speaker in the department. One of my most memorable patients was a Hispanic lady working in an orchard, who had fallen off a ten-foot ladder while picking cherries. Her fruit bucket became too heavy, causing her to lose her balance and fall. On scene, she had a severely deformed right lower extremity that caused obvious pain. While paramedics were on their way, I was the only one who could comfort her since she only spoke Spanish. I instructed her to work on her breathing and not focus on her leg. I distracted her by talking about my own experiences picking cherries and how I understood the hard work she was doing. I recall feeling hopeless and wishing there was more I could do for her. However, what I did not realize in the moment was how talking and relating to her made this traumatizing experience less scary. As the paramedics transported her away, I remember longing to keep on caring for her and treating her injury.
I continued my healthcare journey by working for an ambulance company during my summer and winter breaks from college. As my knowledge and skills evolved, so did my eagerness for wanting a wider scope of practice to continue monitoring patient progress and forming closer bonds with patients. I naturally wanted to expand my treatment knowledge base beyond the double doors of the ER, so I became a medical scribe. I experienced the health disparities of medically underserved populations through having a shortage of physicians, often hearing “They were not accepting new patients” as the reason for an ER visit. The need for access to healthcare was apparent, and I felt I needed to be a part of that solution. There was also a large Hispanic population, which involved plenty of Spanish interpreting during visits. Although I spoke fluent Spanish, learning a vast amount of medical terminology presented its challenges, but allowed me to close the language barrier between patients and providers. With this experience I knew I wanted to be a provider myself.
What really drew me to the PA profession was that I could incorporate my scientific background, utilize my healthcare experience, and also see the advantage that my cultural upbringing would have as a provider. As a PA, I would be able to treat patients beyond the basic care needs, monitor their progress, and build longer lasting bonds than in my previous roles. I am confident my life decisions and experiences have led me down this path of wanting to become a PA.
My advice for all of us aspiring PAs and anyone going into medicine in general is to try and learn some Spanish, even if it’s a little. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the U.S, and you’ll more than likely be seeing a fair share of Spanish speaking patients in your career. From experience, I’ve learned that even a little Spanish goes a long way in forming a connection and trust with your patient. I have had times where patients paid more attention to me than the provider just because I was able to communicate with them. As a Spanish speaker it can be very intimidating to seek medical help when you don’t speak English and it’s even common to avoid medical attention because of it. I want to be a part of that language barrier solution and hope that everyone reading this can join me as well.
Fortunato Placencia with his family on the University of Washington Seattle campus.

Dalia Susana, Staff, Executive Assistant to the MEDEX Northwest Administrative Team

Dalia Susana, 7 years old, passport photo.
I was born in the heart of New York City and grew up quite literally between two countries and two cultures. My family originates from the Dominican Republic. My parents emigrated from the DR in 1983 just a few months after my sister was born and came to the U.S. in search of the American dream. Didn’t we all?
Unlike most of my diaspora counterparts, my family moved between Santo Domingo and NYC every few years due to financial hardships, which means I am the true definition of “Dominican York.” This led me to spend a lifetime fighting labels. I was never New Yorker enough, never Dominican enough, never Latina enough, white enough, or black enough, when in reality I am a human mutt. Dominicans, like our Caribbean counterparts, have a long history of being incredibly mixed due to colonization, trades, and being the “hub” of the Caribbean overall. This experience taught me to never to define myself by labels, to push aside the boxes others wanted to fit me into, and to constantly push myself to show the world that we are here, we are undefined, and we make our own way as humans, ever flowing, ever evolving. I am here, and I am ME.
Community is the answer. My culture (especially in the island) taught me that taking care of each other, your elders, and the less fortunate is a beautiful and necessary part of life. We do not abandon our people. For this reason, I have always been interested in fields that value and respect the gift of giving back to your community and taking care of those around us because, in its true glory, it helps us all.
My heritage leads the way in how I proceed in life and in my professional life. While many can dream big and want to thrive with the goal of taking care of their family in the future, I do my best to use my heritage in the small things, like a big smile to everyone I interact with, working as a team player, being mindful of how my actions affect my team and generally those around me, giving comfort to someone having a bad day, and helping others climb their ladder so we can be successful together.
Latin Americans unite; while most of us speak Spanish (hey Brazil 😝), it’s important to note that we all have our own dialects and slang. Think about it: we have the New York accent and the Boston accent, and let’s not even talk about the South, so for those learning the language, stick to the proper words to avoid miscommunications. Generally, we are super happy to share our language and it’s already a huge part of the USA culture, so don’t be afraid to practice with us – it’s appreciated.

Dalia Susana (right) with her siblings at the Santo Domingo Botanical Gardens. 

Dalia Susana (3rd from right) with her sister, brother, their spouses, parents and niblings.

Dalia Susana (right), with her Aunt Mama, mother, brother and niece atop Hudson Yards, NYC.

Ted Parker, MEDEX Seattle Class 55 graduate, Faculty Fellow at the MEDEX Seattle campus

Ted Parker with his mother Paula following the Seattle Class 55 graduation ceremony.
My mother immigrated here from Maracay, Venezuela 28 years ago. She worked three jobs my entire childhood. This past month I had the privilege to speak at my graduation and receive an award in front of my mother. A moment I will truly never forget because none of this could’ve been possible without her sacrifices for our family.
As strong as my mother is, I remember the stress she had going to the health clinics and reading complex forms. I would read and translate most of the forms for her. One of my greatest joys of clinical rotations has been speaking Spanish to patients in need of translation. In a place with many emotions, it absolutely warms my heart to provide that small bit of relief to patients. As a PA, I hope to be a beacon of solace for Latinx families while navigating a complex healthcare system.
Ted Parker with (l to r) his Tia Sylvia, his mother Paula, and his Tia Sorelys following the Seattle Class 55 graduation ceremony.