HELPING IMMIGRANTS THRIVE
At age 14, Maria Ruiz experienced what she considers the most impactful experience in her life—moving from her hometown of Honduras’ largest city, Tegucigalpa, to Farmington, Missouri.
She witnessed how racial discrimination, xenophobia, and language barriers in this new environment negatively affected her mother’s health and well-being.
“I want to make sure that everyone inside and outside the clinic is treated with dignity and has access to all the health services that they need.”
Later, in Ruiz’s third year of medical school at the University of Chicago, she visited her grandfather in Honduras for the first time in 12 years. As she looked into his eyes while he retold stories of his youth, she noticed his cataracts and found out that he was unable to receive bilateral cataract surgery—a simple, routine procedure in the U.S.—because the physicians in his small town lacked the equipment to perform it.
Both experiences reinforced a commitment to health equity and providing culturally humble care. In her medical training, she has cared for underserved communities on the South and West sides of Chicago to improve not just their health but also to bolster their humanity.
Through her MPH, Ruiz plans to gain the skills she needs to create policies that will help Latinx communities throughout the U.S. thrive, regardless of their documentation status.
“I’m looking to bridge that gap between knowing that there’s a disparity and having both the political will and the skill set to do something about it,” she said.
BA, Anthropology, University of Washington in St. Louis, 2017; Medical student, University of Chicago, Degree anticipated, 2023