First-Generation Doctor to Provide Culturally Competent Mental Healthcare

When Virginia Ramos immigrated to the US with her parents at age 9, she brought with her a love of science. After volunteering at a local hospital in the Bronx during middle school, she decided that she wanted to use that interest to pursue a career in medicine. But she encountered many challenges on her route to college and medical school, especially as her family was unfamiliar with the processes.

“I’m a first-generation everything,” said Ramos. “I had to do it all on my own.”

Ramos found support in the Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP) program at Albert Einstein School of Medicine, a pipeline program for high school students from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in science or health professions.

“STEP opened a lot of doors for me, between introducing me to doctors, exposing me to researchers, and even connecting me to college scholarships,” said Ramos. “The program made it easier to follow the path I wanted.”

Attending college in Massachusetts, Ramos often found herself the only Spanish-speaking person in the room, including the hospital where she shadowed physicians.

“I saw Spanish-speaking patients frustrated with the care they received, and I wanted to improve it,” she said. “I chose medicine because I want to help people who encounter health problems to return to a normal life, and provide care that gets them back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

But after graduating college, Ramos realized she needed more time and support before she would be prepared to succeed in medical school. She applied to the Interdisciplinary Basic Medical Sciences Master’s Program at New York Medical College, funded by AMSNY. The program provides academic support and mentorship in preparation for medical school.  Upon successful completion of the program, students are guaranteed acceptance to the medical school.

“Programs like this are very important to people like me who don’t have role models in medicine,” said Ramos.

Thanks to the AMSNY pipeline program, she recently graduated from NYMC, and Dr. Ramos will soon begin her residency in psychiatry at University of Rochester Medical Center.

Dr. Ramos wants to make a difference in underserved communities where mental health is more taboo, by educating and treating patients in a culturally competent way.

“When patients identify with a doctor, it goes a long way to improve health care, by leading to better adherence to treatment and better outcomes,” said Dr. Ramos.