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Amy Perez, yoga helps Latinos embrace mental health and physical wellness


Amy Perez helps Latinos with YogaMental health wasn’t talked about in the home Amy Perez grew up in.  During her undergraduate studies at Temple University, the education major from Philadelphia was going through a lot of personal challenges including family issues.  It was during this time that she took a course on yoga and found that it helped her cope with the emotions she was struggling with.

Years after undergrad, Amy suffered a personal loss where the grieving process wasn’t playing out for her. A friend recommended to come to her yoga studio- a recommendation that would put Amy on a path to clarity not only fo herself, but for her community.

“I go and the first day I’m there and my body is moving in these poses, I was like, ‘what is stirring up inside of me?,” she remembered.

While Amy got much of her physical training from MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, yoga was training for her body and mind. The studio manager asked her to participate in a seven month training to become a teacher to which Amy agreed.

That’s when Amy’s career as a yoga instructor blasted off.

She started teaching yoga to athletes in recovery and joined Grace & Glory Yoga, but she was still searching for more.  Many yoga studios can be cost prohibitive for Latinos. Amy found Roots2Rise, a nonprofit that offers yoga free to the community.

As an educator for over 15 years in Philadelphia’s public school system, she was always drawn to working with the kids that were facing difficult circumstances like being teen moms or those behind on their education.

Partnering with Roots2Rise was important for Amy because studio fees are cost prohibitive for struggling Latino families.

“When it comes to going to counseling, therapy, all that mental health stuff, there’s a stigma around it,” Perez said.

Amy is using yoga to change that mindset by emphasizing the emotional and mental aspects during class. Over the years she has helped countless people through her yoga and public education efforts.  She is now asking for the community’s help.

Baron Baptiste, the son of America’s yoga pioneers, offers a world renowned Level 1 Training Program.  Amy, a single mother, launched a GoFundMe campaign in the beginning of May to help with tuition for the class. The training will allow her to bring these methods and techniques to underserved communities.

“This is something that I’ve been wanting for the last two years. It’s my calling. I want to bring back so much knowledge, bring back this work to share with all the communities I work with” said Amy in a YouTube video to her sponsors.

Post summarized from an article in El Dia.  Read the full article here


Dr. Cindy’s Diagnosis: Donate the right mask to the right healthcare provider

Doctors and hospitals need masks to fight coronavirusFor my first blog post, I’m going to talk about the different types of masks used in the fight against coronavirus.  This is an important issue because it keeps medical personnel from getting infected and sick patients from infecting others.


One of our major issues right now is lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  PPE is our masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, hair covers, gowns and shoe covers.  Out of everything right now, those most important are the masks.  Please please please donate if you have extra masks around from construction, nail salons, painting or other type of work!  I have seen a lot of social media posts calling for cloth mask.  I love the intention but I also want to make clear they are NOT “better than nothing” for an ER physician.  In fact, there’s some evidence that a cloth mask in that setting might INCREASE the doctor’s risk of getting infected.  But because we are having to do extended wear and reusing the below mask, the cloth masks are being used by some as a splashguard to further protect the N95.

N95 respirator masks

Should be worn by those directly working with COVID19-suspicious or confirmed patients, priority to those performing what we call “aerosolizing procedures” (intubations but also breathing treatments with nebulizer and the collection of a nasopharyngeal swab for testing).  But ideally should be worn in the ER by all, including environmental services (think of those cleaning the room after a patient has been sneezing and coughing hours inside of it).  I think paramedics should be wearing these as well, but at minimum they should be wearing a procedure mask like listed below.

Procedure Masks

procedure maskShould be worn by all doing patient care that have already been screened as “healthy”.  We’re talking about the outpatient clinics that are part of a system where all the “sick” people are being sent elsewhere.  It’ll minimize the person becoming a vector between patients.  At these “healthy”-visit places, environmental services and registration should be wearing these at minimum.

Cloth Masks, with or without filter

I spent a summer in Taiwan during my undergrad years.  I actually still have a cloth mask somewhere from my time there.  I found it comfortable to wear while biking down the streets of Tainan.  I think this is another cultural aspect from our East Asian brothers and sisters that should be encouraged here (I think most Americans are learning the whole no-shoes-indoors part).
These are ideal for everybody else.  The administrative people that work in the hospital without direct patient care, the grocery store workers and pharmacy workers.  Police officers should be wearing at least these!  They often get spit upon too.
The only reasons all these people are not wearing masks right now is (1) there’s still some denial going on and (2) there aren’t enough.  We are reviewing and learning how to extend the life of the masks we have now.  Extended wear is always better than reusing.  It is extremely hard to reuse without contaminating yourself.  I have been practicing recently as my local place has not had a confirmed case yet, but I myself cannot take off and put back on between patients in a a completely safe way so I cannot in good conscience recommend reusing in that manner to others.  Regardless of the type of mask, it is far much safer to leave it on for longer periods of time than removing and reusing without being able to clean it.  If you see someone in line in the grocery store with a procedure mask and they use their hand to pull it down to below their chin, then later put in back over their mouth/nose… it defeats the purpose.  It’s a waste of a procedure mask, better used by a healthcare worker and also why cloth masks are better for the general public.
For the N95’s, we’re learning how to use dry heat (ovens) and UV-C light to sanitize and make it safer to reuse.  Doctors are carrying around paper bags with their designated N95 in between uses.  Remember though, these were designed to be used and discarded.  All these measures are desperate responses to the current need.  And some of us have long shifts: 12hrs, 24hrs, 36 hrs.  At some point we have to eat and pee (and pump).  There isn’t enough time to sanitize the mask during shift so removing and reusing (which is more dangerous than extended wear) becomes necessary.  Have you ever used an N95?  It is not easy to wear for hours upon hours. especially if you have allergies or asthma or claustrophobia.
If you are involved with making cloth masks, I ask that you think about the rest of your community: grocery store workers and police officers are examples I mentioned above.  I mean, look at everything HEB is doing for us!  If you want to target healthcare workers, I personally would rather you make hair covers (think surgical caps) and gowns that can be washed and reused every shift to help us protect our families from getting the same repeated exposures we’re getting at work.
Stay healthy (in your homes), mi gente 🙂

Will County Community Health Center increases bilingual medical staff


Will County Community Health Center, based in Joliet, Illinois, has bolstered their bilingual medical staff to six. The health center provides access to medical and dental care through community collaboration and education.

According to U.S. Census estimates, out of the 690,000 residents, Will County is approximately 17% Latino. Bilingual medical professionals are important to the community.

Will County Community Health Center now has six Spanish speaking medical providers. All are native Spanish speakers.

A bilingual staff of nurses, medical assistants, dental assistants, and six full-time interpreters help provide medical service.  About 40% of Will County CHC patients are Latino.  Half of the Latino patients only speak Spanish, so having a bilingual staff is critical to providing quality healthcare.

Will County CHC also includes an on-site lab and a pharmacy that provides prescriptions at a discount.  For patients that are uninsured, the health center charges on a sliding scale.

Appointments at Will County CHC- 815-727-8670

For more information:

Latino mental health statistics: Disparities, utilization, stigma


Latino mental health statistics are hard to come by. Seeking help with mental health or going to a therapist is a stigma in large parts of the Latino community.  There is also an educational gap as many Latinos aren’t familiar with the process and benefits of visiting a mental health professional.

Latino mental health disparities and utilization:

  • Latinos are a lower risk of most psychiatric disorders compared with non-Hispanic whites.
  • Latinos born in the US reporting having higher rates for most psychiatric disorders than Latino immigrants
  • Approximately 1 in 10 Latinos that have a mental disorder are using mental health services from a general health practitioner.  Only 1 in 20 specifically receive services from a mental health specialist.
  • Latinos are likely to say there is poor communication with their healthcare provider. Studies show patients that speak Spanish are evaluated different when interviewed in English.  Latinos are also frequently undertreated.
  • 21.1% of Latinos are uninsured compared to 7.% of white non-Hispanics.

Mental health disparities in Hispanic children and teens

  • Latino children are at a great risk of mental health problems. Often greater than white children.
  • In 2015, 18.9% of Latinos in grades 9 – 12 seriously thought about suicide.  15.7% made plans to attempt suicide.  11.3% attempted suicide.  4.1% attempted suicide and had a resulting injury, poisoning or overdose that needed medical attention. All these rates were consistently higher for Latinos than black and white students.
  • Latino teens are only half as likely as white teens to use antidepressants.
  • Latino and white teens between the ages of 12-17 were more likely than black or Asian teens to start alcohol or cigarette use in the past year. In 2014, 10% of white and Latino teens started using alcohol compared with 7.3% for black teens and 4.7% for Asian.  About 3.9% of Latino teens started using cigarettes compared to 3.5% for white teens, 2.2% for black teens and 1.5% for Asians.

Barriers to accessing mental healthcare

  • Not having insurance or having adequate insurance
  • Latinos aren’t aware about mental health problems and services
  • There is a language barrier for many Latinos that could benefit from mental health help
  • There is a lack of culturally tailored programs and services with mental health professionals that understand Latinos
  • Big shortage of bilingual mental health professionals.
  • Latinos have difficulty recognizing signs of mental illness.

Received mental health treatment in the past year by race/ethnicityLatino mental health treatment past year


Prevalence of mental illness among Latinos

Latino mental illness prevalence

Latino mental health statistics from the American Psychiatric Association

Dr. John Paul Sanchez: Advocate for diversity in medicine

Dr. John Paul Sanchez
Photo Courtesy Latino Medical Student Association Facebook page

Dr. John Paul Sanchez has a dedication to diversity and inclusion in medicine that is unmatched among physicians.  In addition to his work with the Latino Medical Student Association, he has been recognized for his advocacy in LGBTQ+ health.

As the son of Puerto Rican educators in the Bronx, Dr. Sanchez saw the impact of health disparities at a young age.  In particular, the HIV / AIDS epidemic made him curious as to why it disproportionately effected Latinos and gay men.

“I saw the effect of health disparities at an early age and it made me very scared,” he said in an interview with United Health Group. “I became interested in medicine as a matter of survival.”

Dr. Sanchez would go on to New York University where he was involved educational efforts for the LGBTQ+ community.  It was when he met Dr. Kenneth Dominguez that he decided to acquire an MPH and be an epidemiologist. He received a Master’s degree in public health from Yale and went to medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His residency was completed at Jacobi/Montefiore in Emergency Medicine.

It was during his medical studies that Dr. Sanchez became aware of the obstacles underrepresented minorities face when pursuing a career in medicine. A major barrier is the lack of diversity among the faculty of medical schools.

During his professional career, he has focused on bringing diversity to academic medicine. He has served as the assistant dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Rutgers Medical School, and leads Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians Inc. which encourages minorities, women and LGBTQ+ students to in medical school to think about pursuing academic medicine.

As a practicing physician and healthcare leader, Dr. John Paul Sanchez has his hands full. He divides his time between caring for patients in the emergency department, leading diversity and inclusion efforts for a variety of organizations and researching diversity in academic medicine.

He believes there are gaps in academic medicine including in the evaluation process of diversity initiatives in the physician workforce.

When not advocating or treating patients, Dr. Sanchez enjoys taking mentees to the summer Shakespearean performances in Central Park.  His interest in education comes from seeing his parents.  His father was a Spanish professor and his mother was an English as a Second Language teacher.


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