In his youth, Efrain Talamantes was sure of one thing: he’d grow up to help those in need. As a son of Mexican immigrants, his story was much like those of other families who have come from foreign countries, yet unique in its own way. As the oldest child in his family, he regularly shadowed his parents and remained prepared for when they needed translation. However, he never lost sight of what was always important to him.
“Education was fundamentally an opportunity for me to help my family directly,” said Talamantes, the Associate Director at the Center for Reducing Health Disparities in UC Davis School of Medicine. He recalls volunteering in his earlier days and seeing the extensive line of Latinos waiting for a Spanish-speaking physician to attend to them. It is then when he realized his mission. He called this experience “transformational,” though Talamantes felt that more needed to be done.
Talamantes, the founder of MiMentor Organization and a recipient of the 2015 Voto Latino Innovators Challenge Award, has created a community of mentorship.
“One of the key areas we wanted to address was to improve mentoring for young Latinos who are interested in healthcare and interested in health careers,” Talamantes said. One of the motives driving him to create this organization was the lack of Latinos in healthcare-related professions. Latinos account for a mere 5% of the total physician population.
“If you think about the percentage of Latinos in high school and even in college, there is just a lot of work to do,” he said. “We felt that by using technology, we could leverage our ability to mentor more students and provide them with our stories of overcoming some of the common challenges that we face as first-generation students and also provide them with good information.”
The MiMentor App is a platform for healthcare professionals of all backgrounds, where they have access to answers, mentorship opportunities, events and programs.
Talamantes hopes that through this mentorship network, he will be able to create a ripple effect. Ultimately, his plan is to motivate young Latino students to pursue a career in healthcare and become physicians who are accessible to the underserved Latino community. “One of the key things for us is to ensure mentors know how important they are to this equation of success in changing and improving the statistics,” he said.
Dr. Talamantes has experienced the struggle first-hand. He knows how important it is to connect to the community through culture and language. “We really see that one of the fundamental solutions to improve the health of our community is to be represented,” he said. “We want our Latino students to understand that they come in with strength because of their culture.”
MiMentor has become a much-needed tool for healthcare professionals to start creating opportunities for future generations.
“We really need to have mentors to make these pathways accessible.”
Written by Sarai Vega