The UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with highlights of students and faculty of Hispanic and Latin heritage.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Originally started as a heritage celebration week in 1968, the observation was expanded to a full month in 1988. The celebration starts mid-month because Sept. 15 marks the independence anniversary of five countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. It is followed by Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16 and Chile’s on Sept. 18.
Javier Loera III, a third-year student in the Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences program, kicks off our student highlights by sharing his family’s Mexican background and offering advice to other first-generation Latinos in academia.
Q: Tell us where you grew up and a little about your family. Were your parents or any other family members in health care or the sciences?
I grew up in Perris, California, and my parents are originally from Jalisco, Mexico. They came to the U.S. to create a life here for our family. As the oldest sibling, I witnessed the inaccessibility and gaps in healthcare for minorities. This sparked my interest in going into the pharmacy field. I wanted to make a change in the healthcare system and have someone of my background be at the front of the pharmacy, so when children enter the clinic, they see someone who looks like them working as a doctor.
I hope to increase representation to lift other Latinos into the pharmacy field. My family is supportive of my ambitions, but as a first-generation college student, I had no one to help me navigate this new stage in my life. When I visited UCI for the first time, I just knew it was for me. The environment was so welcoming, and the opportunities the school offered were endless. Once I accepted my admission offer to UCI and came to campus, the community here really helped me navigate college life and made me feel way more comfortable here.
Q: How did your heritage or ethnicity influence your studies and research interests?
My ethnicity influenced my studies because I saw how underrepresented we were in the medical field. In addition to the discrimination we sometimes face, there are limited healthcare options, if any, in most areas around the U.S. I didn’t particularly like how we were significantly underrepresented, and I want to make a difference and represent my community and the little kids who aspire to go into the medical field.
Q: What advice would you have for other young people today who are interested in either pharmacology or pharmacy? Do you have any particular advice for Hispanic or Latino/Latinas?
Just go for it, and don’t let anyone bring you down. There will be people along the way who will push your limits and tell you that you can’t make it. That is 100 percent not true because they don’t want more of our community going into these big career paths, but trust me, if you put in the effort and do your best, you will be able to do anything your heart wants!
Q: How can UCI and SPPS continue to develop our diversity, equity, and inclusion practices for Hispanic or Latino/Latina students?
UCI and SPPS could continue to develop their diversity, equity, and inclusion practices for Hispanic and Latino/Latina students by continuing these amazing events and representing our culture during Mexico’s Independence Day. UCI has already done a fantastic job of making amazing events to gather our community!
Q: What is your favorite Hispanic tradition, dish, or destination, and why?
My favorite Hispanic dish has to be tamales. My mom makes them once a year during the winter, and it’s the only food we eat for days until they are all gone. The process of making the tamales brings my family closer because we make them together. Tamales can take half or sometimes the entire day to make, so listening to our favorite music and having fun while waiting for the tamales to cook is the best thing ever. It makes me proud of my heritage and happy to be with my family.