CHICAGO -- Growing up on the South Side of Chicago as the child of Mexican immigrants who primarily spoke Spanish, Dr. Daniel Meza was often asked to translate for his parents during medical appointments.
“It’s a skill that I grew up with, having that technical language,” Meza said. “I just recall how stressful it was for my parents when they were in clinics, and as well as for myself, being a small child.”
Now a pulmonologist with Northwestern Medicine, Meza says his concerns about equity in health care lingered.
Two months ago, Meza became a part of the Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute Hispanic Program. Patients of the program receive lung and thoracic care, including surgery and preventive screenings, entirely in Spanish.
Everyone at the CTI Hispanic Program, from front desk workers to operating room nurses, is fluent in Spanish. Patients can also access a dedicated Spanish-language phone line.
Staff aim to improve health equity in Chicago by building trust with Hispanic patients and improving treatment outcomes in Hispanic communities, Meza said.
Some 28.7% of Chicagoans, or about 750,000 people, identified as Hispanic as of the 2022 census.
“When I see patients come in with their children and they see I speak Spanish, there’s kind of a relief on both sides,” Meza said.
The program launched two months ago. It is led by Dr. Diego Mauricio Avella Patino, a thoracic surgeon trained in Colombia, and by Meza, both native Spanish speakers. Avella performs surgeries related to esophageal disease, lung failure, various cancers, chest wall issues and breathing obstruction. Meza specializes in treating pulmonary problems such as asthma, respiratory failure and emphysema.
Patients are often surrounded by medical staff in their most vulnerable moments, such as right before anesthesia.
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