UConn Today sat down with UConn Health Pulmonologist Dr. Mario Perez, assistant professor of medicine in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UConn School of Medicine, to find out what his Hispanic heritage really means to him, how it has influenced his health care career, and those he cares for from diverse backgrounds at UConn Health.
What does your Hispanic heritage mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage means feeling proud and honored to belong to a community that is willing to serve others, some through military service, church, or just plain old hard work. Also, it means pride in being able to communicate in another language and maintain traditions associated with family and community while helping this country to grow and prosper.
Who inspired you to enter medical school and become a doctor?
I always enjoyed science and trying to help people. I also was privileged to have an uncle who worked as pediatrician in the rural town where I was born and raised. He allowed me in his office to observe his work many times. Later on in life my brother decided to attend medical school and I was always very curious to explore his textbooks. At the beginning I was fascinated by the pathology pictures shown in his dermatology books, and later on hearing his excitement about human physiology sparked my interest in medicine and excitement to learn more.
How does your connection to the Hispanic community influence your patient care?
Because of my heritage I am available to serve some members of our community in their own language and perhaps with a deeper understanding of their needs. At the same time I make an extra effort to be a good role model for others in the community.
As a provider, what’s your major focus when caring for those in the Hispanic community?
My focus has always been providing the best care I can independently of whom I am serving. Since the prevalence of asthma among the Hispanic population in the State of Connecticut is higher, particularly among Puerto Ricans, I had focused my services on that condition that affects the respiratory system and in particular the airways. Therefore, I tried to provide education for my patients on the dangers of some environmental exposures, tobacco, recreational substance and alcohol. I also encourage them to seek all preventive care, and particularly immunizations to prevent or decrease the morbidity of diseases such as COVID-19 and the flu.
Anything you want to share with the Hispanic community or those working in the health care field?
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Hispanic community that has trusted us with their care, and the UConn Health for fostering an environment of inclusiveness.