An event at Stanford Hospital honors a school of medicine faculty member, a fellow and a student for their efforts to diversify the medical field and promote health equity.
May 19, 2022 - By Mandy Erickson
In 1971, Fernando Mendoza, MD, now a professor emeritus of pediatrics, enrolled at Stanford University School of Medicine as part of a 10-student affirmative action cohort. The school had set aside an admissions quota for students from underrepresented minorities after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
“They weren’t sure we’d make it,” Mendoza said at an award ceremony on May 16. “But we all graduated, and five of us became professors.
“People may tell you that you can’t do it, but the only one who can tell you that is yourself. The viejitos aren’t always right,” he added, referring to old-timers.
Faculty members, students and others gathered on a rooftop garden at Stanford Hospital to celebrate Mendoza, who was honored for receiving the Joseph W. St. Geme Jr. Leadership Award from the Federation of Pediatric Organizations. They also recognized a Stanford Medicine student and a fellow, who received awards from the school for their efforts to diversify the medical field and improve health equity.
Yvonne Maldonaldo, MD, senior associate dean of faculty development and diversity, opened the ceremony by asking for a moment of silence to reflect on shootings the previous weekend, the one in Buffalo, New York, clearly racially motivated. “We can’t be content with thoughts and prayers,” she said. “We can keep making change happen while keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground.”
In introducing Mendoza, Baraka Floyd, MD, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics, said that when she was a resident at Stanford, she was anxious about making her first referral to Child Protective Services, but Mendoza convinced her she knew what she was doing. “Dr. Mendoza reminded me that I was here because I was capable,” she said.
Monica Ruiz, MD, a fellow in pediatric critical care, received the Dr. Miquell Miller Award. She developed a diversity, equity and inclusion teaching curriculum; has advocated to increase the number of Spanish language interpreters in the hospital; and studies anxiety in immigrant children. She will soon start a faculty position in pediatric critical care at Brown University.
Winning the award, she said, “creates motivational feedback, letting me know that my work matters.”
Adrian Delgado, a medical student, received the Fernando Mendoza Health Equity Research and Opportunity Award. At Stanford, Delgado organized a conference for Latino pre-med students from the Western United States and has researched ways to help minority residents succeed.
“It’s exciting to win something named after Dr. Mendoza,” he said. “He’s really been fighting for our community.”
Wrapping up the event, Maldonado noted that she, too, had been an affirmative action student at the School of Medicine. “We’re not unqualified,” she said. “We’re qualified; you’re just using the wrong measuring stick.”
About Stanford Medicine
Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.