Summit's goal is to help Hispanics with health care Meeting recognizes gains made by Latino doctors

June 16, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

In a three-day, first-of-its-kind summit, some of the world's leading physicians are exploring how to make health care more affordable, accessible and effective for Hispanics in the United States and around the globe.

The summit, called "Hispanic Empowerment in the Health Care System," has attracted more than 100 doctors and U.S. policy makers to Baltimore this week.

The goals of the summit are myriad and broad -- ensuring quality health care to Latinos worldwide; recognizing the accomplishments of Hispanic doctors, many of whom are practicing state-of-the-art medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital; and working toward international research collaboration among Latino doctors.

The list of attendees reads like a Who's Who of Latino physicians, including former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello and Pedro Rossello, a pediatric surgeon and the governor of Puerto Rico.

"This is an opportunity to not only look for ways to improve health care for the Hispanic community, but to truly recognize those Latinos who are leading doctors worldwide," said Pedro Diaz-Molina, executive director of Hispanic American Leadership Inc., the nonprofit Puerto Rican think tank organizing this week's sessions.

In the past, the Hispanic Leadership Summit has addressed the issues of Latinos in the media and in politics. But noting inadequate heath care as "one of the most pressing issues for the Hispanic community," the organization approached Johns Hopkins to be a partner in this year's conference.

"We were thrilled to be a part of this," said Dahlia Isicoff, manager of the Latin American and Caribbean division of Hopkins' Office of International Services. "Nearly 25 percent of our foreign patients are of Latin American origin, so these are certainly issues near and dear to us."

The doctors -- from hospitals across the United States -- are presenting details of revolutionary research and medical experiments. They have talked about AIDS and cancer research, and are focusing on the idea of Latino doctors sharing information and data as they work to eradicate diseases.

"I'm hearing people talk about working together on research whether their hospital happens to be in the U.S. or the Dominican Republic or Mexico," Diaz-Molina said. "The common goal is what matters."

The first two days of the summit -- Sunday and yesterday -- focused on recognizing the accomplishments of Latino doctors. Today, the focus will shift to the idea of health care reform and ways Hispanics in government can work toward reform.

Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, is expected to speak about the sweeping health care reforms he has implemented within the past several years, and how the rest of the country could learn from the initiatives of Puerto Rico. Novello, the first woman and Hispanic to hold the position of U.S. surgeon general, is expected to discuss her work toward improving heath care in poor communities and inner cities.

Several U.S. senators are expected to attend today's meetings, including Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords, one of the few Republicans to back President Clinton's first-term heath care reform plan.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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