Hispanic doctors share their journey to their dream jobs

Hispanic Heritage Month

LUBBOCK, Texas – Two local doctors from University Medical Center and Covenant Health said the process to becoming a physician is arduous but not impossible to achieve.

Dr. Vanessa Costilla, a Gastroenterologist at University Medical Center, said she spent nearly 14 years in higher education. She recalled two moments in her childhood that inspired her to become a doctor.

“When I was six years old I had a pretty severe head injury and spent about two weeks in the hospital so that planted a seed there,” she said ” And then when I was 10, my grandmother was in the hospital an she did not speak English and I realized there were so many people who could not communicate with her.”

Costilla said no one in her family had ever gone to college and that she was able to learn about the medical field through mentors in high school . She said her family was also supportive in her dreams, especially one of her grandmothers who was supportive in her undergrad and in medical school.

According to the Association of Medical Colleges, only 6 percent of doctors identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.

“In terms of [Hispanics] not seeing a whole lot of people that look like them, it’s time to change that,” said Dr. Dennis Duriex, an infectious disease doctor at Covenant Medical Center.

Dr. Duriex grew up in Puerto Rico and also grew up in the military traveling to different parts of the world, which he said helped shape the way he relates to people. He said he was inspired to become a doctor from a young age.

“I got an infection, believe it or not, an infected foot and a doctor treated me with penicillin shots, he said [and] that inspired me to think, ‘I really want to do that’.”

Dr. Duriex said becoming a doctor required unrelenting dedication and sacrifice.

“I’m not sure I understood how much sacrifice it would be but I wanted it more than I wanted the other stuff that I had to sacrifice,” he said.

Dr. Duriex said there are key traits that people wanting to become doctors should possess.

“If they want to pursue this field to do some research, it takes a very special person to some degree because you have to be dedicated and put in the long hours,” he said, “If you think you’re that kind of person, then definitely pursue it.”

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