Mariana Ramírez

Director at JUNTOS Center for Advancing Latino Health at The University of Kansas Medical Center

Where were you born and raised?
Mexico.

What is your family heritage?
Mexican.

What is your occupation?
Director at JUNTOS Center for Advancing Latino Health at The University of Kansas Medical Center.

How have you supported or contributed to the local Hispanic/Latinx community?
I am part of an amazing and thriving Latino community that is always trying to help others so often times my role is supporting them achieve those goals. As the Director of JUNTOS, I oversee a growing number of academic-community partnerships focused on eliminating health disparities experienced by Latinos. I am highly involved in the Kansas City community and participate in different health-focused boards and coalitions including the Charitable Committee of the Kansas City Medical Society Foundation, Executive Committee of the Regional Community Health Worker Collaborative, and the Health Equity Taskforce of Wyandotte County. Since March 2020, I have been very involved with the HETF in the coordination of community-based Covid testing activity and communications tailored to Latinos.

How do you connect with your Hispanic/Latinx culture?
My culture is part of who I am and what I do everyday. Speaking Spanish with my children, listening to Latin-American music (thanks Dad!), and eating (I wish I could say cooking too) Mexican food are definitely present all the time!

What is your favorite childhood memory?
I have many :) Some of my most treasured memories are from walks, picnics, and games with my extended family. We were crowd of at least 20 cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandma! We would all go see the Elephant Waterfall in Orizaba and then walk down the 500 steps to get to a beautiful valley covered by leafy trees, flowers and a river. Then, we would we would walk our way up, enjoy a well deserved picnic and play games.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
It reminds me who I am, where I come from and the cultural legacy I want for my children.

In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the Hispanic/Latinx community?
Education is one of them. Having a college degree means higher opportunities and earnings which translates into a higher quality of life overall. The proportion of Latinos attaining a Bachelor's degree (21%) is considerably lower than that of their white counterparts (45%). Latino college enrollment rates have increased in the past few years and we need to ensure those students have the support they need to graduate. This is particularly important for those who are first-generation students, setting up the path for their siblings and others in their community. Having adequate financial resources, faculty that reflects their culture, and mentorship are crucial.

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