Celebrating Hispanic Contributions to Science and Medicine

This year drove us to reexamine a lot of long-standing assumptions and imbalances. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the protests over racial justice that filled the summer, we have been confronted with inequalities in outcomes, particularly in health and medicine. But we can’t truly make progress unless every voice is heard.

As it stands, the Latino population is missing from important health and medicine conversations. Latinos make up nearly 20% of the U.S. population, yet are represented in less than 10% of clinical trials. That means when life-saving treatment and prevention strategies are developed, the Latino community is often not taken into consideration. This community needs to be included in medical research so that all of the elements that impact Latinos (lifestyle, job, family health history, underlying health conditions) can be factored into the data and treatments and can be developed with all groups—including underrepresented groups—in mind.

While the lack of representation of Latinos in science and medicine persist, there have been great contributions made by members of this community. The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) took a look back at some of the important contributions Latinos have made to close the gaps in Hispanic health, as well as in science and medicine.


César Milstein, an Argentine biochemist, won the Nobel Prize for his 1975 study on monoclonal antibodies in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and developed a technique that is possibly even more relevant during today’s pandemic. Milstein’s technique for the mass production of monoclonal antibodies created lab-made versions of proteins that the human body produces naturally in response to invading viruses or other pathogens. This discovery may provide short-term protection from COVID-19 until vaccines become available.


Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Frances Colón is an American science diplomat and environmental policy expert. As the Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State from 2012 to 2017, she promoted the integration of science and technology into foreign policy dialogues, the advancement of women in science, and innovation as a tool for economic growth around the world.


Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Jessica J. Márquez traveled to the United States for college. Today, she is a Research Engineer in the Human System Integration Division at NASA Ames Research Center Engineering. In her work, she has created tools to assist with the support of human space exploration.


Bolivian-American, Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez, was a high school educator known for helping low-income students ace the Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus classes in East Los Angeles. In 1982, 18 of his students took the AP exam and all passed. The College Board suspected cheating and asked 14 of the students—who were mostly from working-class Mexican American families—to retake the test. Twelve agreed to take the test again and all passed. Mr. Escalante is the subject of the film Stand and Deliver, and the book called Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Mathews.

At a time when it’s easy to feel powerless, there are ways you can help advance science for the Latino community. One way is to ensure you’re represented in medical data is by participating in the All of Us Research Program. NHCOA partnered with the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program to enroll one million or more participants that reflect the true diversity of the country. By participating, you share details about yourself that become part of a database that researchers can turn to as they seek answers to important health-related questions. Latinos have made major contributions to science and medicine throughout history—you have an opportunity to do the same.

Originally published by The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA): Source

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