The Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation (Foundation) COVID-19 Response Fund has provided financial support to 28 Wisconsin medical students with more than 30 students waiting for aid. Andrea Niño de Guzman Ramirez, a second-year medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, shared her story of being a medical student during the pandemic:
“I am writing to express my gratitude to the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation and their committed donors. Like many physicians in training, I am not immune to the repercussions associated with the global pandemic that we are experiencing. I am writing this reflection in hopes of shedding light on the reality I have battled in the last couple of months and the impact your donations have in supporting students like myself through the emergency fund created by the Foundation.
Immigrating to Wisconsin from Mexico brought many challenges for my family. At the age of thirteen, I was confronted with a new culture, language, climate and education system. Having Spanish as my native language meant I had to invest additional time and effort to catch up to my peers to succeed in academics. My family prioritized education, therefore, my mother returned to school to improve her English literacy and subsequently become certified as a medical interpreter. By returning to school my family’s income became less stable. Supporting myself during college placed fewer burdens on my family, so I worked an average of sixteen hours per week, six days a week all while balancing academics, leadership and extracurricular activities. In 2017 my father was dismissed from the job that brought my family to this country. Since then my family has faced financial instability and additional stress. Following my college graduation, I had to postpone medical school applications and balance two jobs to afford MCAT preparation materials and seek financial independence from my parents. Being on my own and supporting my education has been challenging, yet comforting, knowing my parents can work fewer hours and not deteriorate their physical and mental well-being.
My family has recently invested their life savings to a small business by opening a restaurant in downtown Milwaukee. The restaurant opened in January 2020, and we could have never foreseen the global pandemic that has since disproportionately impacted small business owners. The stress and uncertainty have heavily affected my family. Without stable clients, my family’s business never got the chance to pick up. As a medical interpreter, my mom is on the forefront working extra shifts to make ends meet as the stable income in the household. My parents continue to work long hours without a foreseeable end to the pandemic. I see how their health is deteriorating from the stress and long working hours without me being able to help. Unlike many of my young adult counterparts, I do not have a stable job and its income to help support my family through these difficult times. And as immigrants, we do not have family members close by or a community to rely on during the pandemic. My family is struggling day to day, and to say it does not take a toll on me would be a lie. To make matters worse, I recently fractured my femur from a fall. All I could think about while sitting in the emergency room was the financial burden I would be to my family during this difficult time. I feared the medical costs associated with surgery and additional consultations would bring my family to the breaking point.
To say I am grateful does not encompass the magnitude of the impact your donation has made in my journey. Like my experience, there are many other physicians in training experiencing financial hardship and are unable to financially rely on loved ones. According to the CDC, racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with higher hospitalizations among Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, followed by the Hispanic population. With higher incidence of COVID-19 among these communities, there are both financial and emotional burdens that impact minority medical students. Having family members financially or medically impacted by the pandemic equally impacts the medical trainee and their well-being. Minority students carry this stress which can impact their academic performance and most importantly their well-being. Moreover, the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated individuals from resources and support. Medical students are expected to continue excelling in the academic aspects of their training while they are facing instability at their core. The financial barriers associated with medical education for far too long have prevented aspiring physicians with great potential from pursuing a career that was out of reach. But now more than ever I am grateful that we can come together and support the most vulnerable members of our medical community disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”
Thank you to everyone who has donated to the Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund! Please click here to learn more or to contribute.
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