2014 Equity: Miriam Morales-Ayala

Morales-Ayala_Miriam_1_150Miriam Morales-Ayala has seen first-hand the difficulties faced by her own family members and community in receiving culturally competent care.  An aspiring physician, she is driven by the goal to provide access and quality healthcare for underserved communities, particularly Latino families.

A student leader at Linfield College, Miriam has actively advocated for the health care needs of minorities by volunteering at the Yamhill County Free Clinic as a Spanish interpreter. She also volunteers to serve patients in the medical/surgical department at Willamette Valley Medical Center.  

"I'm humbled by the opportunity to hone my communication skills and sensitivity with patients that have been in pain or have a disability," she says.

Being bilingual and bicultural, Miriam served as an AmeriCorps VISTA leader, working with the "9th Grade Counts" initiative in Portland. She supported the program as part of El Programa Hispano, which is dedicated to promoting enrichment classes for Latino youth.  At Linfield, she has served as the project leader for Linfield's annual "Hispanic Heritage Day," led by the college's Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) chapter.

Miriam understands the interconnectedness of an engaged and thriving community with individual health outcomes.  That is why she has also advocated for political and social justice issues within the greater Latino community, and is particularly involved in immigration reform. She is also committed to ensuring that people – regardless of socioeconomic background and/or cultural barriers – have access to only the highest quality and respectful care.

"No individual should be deprived of their basic need of seeing a health provider due to cultural and linguistic barriers. I aspire to be a culturally competent doctor serving in a low-income community, specifically with individuals with little or no resources," she says.

Miriam is part of the medicine track of the 2014 Summer Equity Internship Program. She is working with research mentor Philippe Thuillier, Ph.D. in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. She is shadowing clinical mentor John Holland, M.D., in the Department of Radiation Medicine.

"I have enjoyed getting the opportunity to meet and learn from professionals who are so passionate about what they do and willing to teach others. It's definitely an empowering feeling to be around professionals that reflect where I am striving to be," she says.  

"I am grateful for having the opportunity to be around mentors that are so well rounded and that do not underestimate my intellectual capacities as a Latina, but rather motivate me to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles that may come my way for being a Latina in the science and medical field." 

Find out more about the Summer Equity Internship Program: email David Martinez, Manager of Student Retention and Recruitment.

Posted on July 8, 2014. Photo and write-up by Maileen Hamto.