Dr. Liliana Ramirez Gomez is a neurologist at the MDU clinic. She sees Spanish-speaking patients and has come to believe that the cultural understanding that the staff in the MDU Spanish Clinic offers is a very important aspect of the care that is provided.
“Many Hispanics come to the USA in midlife or older, and have difficulties with acculturation which is the cultural and psychological change resulting from intercultural contact and exposure to the language and traditions of a new environment,” Dr. Ramirez Gomez said. “This includes changes in customs, language, economic status, political life, social behavior, attitudes toward the acculturation process, and cultural identity.”
“Some individuals with low level of acculturation to the American mainstream due to not having learned English or other factors could remain relatively socially isolated, without developing a network of outside friends in their new country and relying on close family support without a larger network of social interactions,” Dr. Ramirez Gomez said. “This could potentially lead to delays in difficulties recognizing symptoms of cognitive decline earlier, because sometimes family and/or healthcare providers could potentially misinterpret or attribute early signs of cognitive decline to depression leading to delays in appropriate diagnosis and treatment.”
Dr. Ramirez Gomez believes that “it is important to have doctors who can communicate in Spanish, have an understanding of the culture and can establish a relationship with the patients and their families. It makes for a more complete assessment and fuller understanding of the situation.”
Dr. Ramirez Gomez also spoke about the importance of training residents to be able to provide care to an immigrant population that in the near future will be in the majority.
“There are not a lot of multicultural programs in the U.S that provide specialized evaluation and care for patients with cognitive disorders.” Dr. Ramirez Gomez said. “Dementia is rising. In the U.S. there currently is a grand mix of cultures and we need to effectively serve people from all backgrounds. We need to focus on training and teaching people to have cultural sensitivity and awareness, and incorporate that into the care they provide for their patients.”
-Valentina Rojas Posada, MAPP Scholar