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Starting with the language barrier, one woman is helping Latino patients get better care

After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Carla Echeveste was inspired to change the entire course of her life. She turned down an accounting job at her dream financial firm and went back to school to study medicine. Today, she researches and advocates for equity on behalf of Milwaukee's Latino community.

Listen to the audio story below to learn about Echeveste's story, and the advocacy research she is working on today for the All of Us program at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Carla with her mother, courtesy of Medical College of Wisconsin
Echeveste already invested four years and a college degree towards her career in accounting. She recalled liking math and wanting to do what her mother did.

After she learned her mother was sick, she made it a priority to take care of her and attend all of her doctor’s appointments. Those appointments would inspire Echeveste to sideline her future in accounting to re-enroll into a pre-medicine program.

Those appointments with her mother were crucial in her decision. Echeveste quickly observed how language could be a barrier between Latino patients and their doctors. “Six percent of doctors in the country are Latino,” said Echeveste. This leaves room for error and disconnect between Spanish-speaking patients and their doctors.

She recalled acting as a middleman between her mother and her team of physicians. She made sure the doctors understood her mother’s symptoms and that her mother thoroughly understood her options. Echeveste recognized how many Latino families in Milwaukee could benefit from having this bridge of communication.

Echeveste returned to her childhood clinic – the Sixteenth Street Clinic – to work directly with Latino patients and families. She transcribed medical notes for doctors while also translating between patients and physicians.

Today, Echeveste works as a research coordinator for the All of Us program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Her role is to gather data and diverse research participants so her team can develop more precise medicine for biologically diverse groups of people. She continues to strive for Latino equity and access in the medical community, while also keeping her community educated about their health. She has also been recognized with a number of awards and accolades from her medical and Latino community.