DPT Student Reflects on Hispanic Heritage | PCOM Georgia
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DPT Student Represents PCOM Georgia for PT and Hispanic Heritage Month

October 13, 2022

PCOM Georgia DPT student works with patientDoctor of Physical Therapy student Angelique Estrada-Womack (DPT ’23) was recently featured in an American Physical Therapy Association Georgia podcast in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed each year from September 15 to October 15. In addition, the organization designed the podcast to pay tribute to National Physical Therapy Month that takes place annually in October.

Born in Puerto Rico, Estrada-Womack moved to the United States with her parents when she was eight years old. In responding to a question from her interviewer, she spoke about two important cultural characteristics involving food and religion, which are important considerations for clinicians.

“In the healthcare field, we are big on making sure our patients are healthy,” she said, noting that eating the correct foods in the right portion sizes is very important. In Hispanic households, family time often involves food, she noted. “It’s how we connect and relate. What we eat is culturally embedded. It’s extremely rude in the Hispanic culture to not accept food that’s been given to you.”

“It’s not personal when Hispanic people are not compliant” regarding healthcare instructions,” Estrada-Womack added, as there is a focus on miracles and the spiritual aspect of healing. “This is very important for healthcare workers to consider,” she said.

When asked if there had been an occasion when her heritage did not serve her well, Estrada-Womack recalled an incident when she was working as a physical therapy tech. A patient asked her if she was “legal.” She said, “I went the educational route and replied that I am qualified to treat you.”

“As a Puerto Rican who is born an American citizen, it’s important to advocate that citizenship status does not qualify the level of care a healthcare provider can offer,” she said.

Womack-Estrada advised that Google Translate is a valuable tool when treating patients when there’s a language barrier. However, “a simple attempt” at communicating in a patient’s native tongue is “huge,” she said.

She noted that the PCOM Georgia Medical Spanish Initiative Committee is in the process of releasing a book which will help Spanish-speaking people “have a voice in their care by bridging the language gap.”

The book, which is being fine-tuned prior to publishing, includes two curricula—self-study and a guided curriculum for faculty to teach the course. The chapters relate to healthcare systems, diseases and diagnoses.

In the meantime, “Google Translate is your friend,” she said.

Along with Estrada-Womack, Nick Valencia, PT, DPT, OCS, the head physical therapist for the Atlanta Braves and a second generation Mexican-American, served on the panel. Dawn Harrison, PT, DPT, a member of the APTA Georgia DEI Committee, interviewed the two physical therapy professionals.

Dr. Harrison has served as a mentor for Estrada-Womack ever since the two met when Estrada-Womack was an undergraduate student shadowing physical therapists when completing observation hours prior to matriculating into PCOM Georgia’s physical therapy program. “After some conversation, I realized we attended the same church and she knew my husband. Fast forward a few months, I asked her to be my mentor as she was an amazing therapist. I saw how she was very personable with patients. She’s a minority woman in the field, and we practice the same faith. It was really important for me to have some guidance, and Dr. Dawn was the best one for me as I was maneuvering my physical therapy future.”

When asked to participate in the panel, Estrada-Womack said, “It hit me once again how important it is to network, but more than that, to seek mentorship. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Physical Therapy Month. It’s like two of my worlds came together!”

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About PCOM Georgia

Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a branch campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a private, not-for-profit, accredited institution of higher education with a storied 125-year history dedicated to the healthcare professions. Located in Suwanee (Gwinnett County), PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy and physical therapy. Graduate degrees are offered in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science and physician assistant studies. The campus joins PCOM South Georgia in Moultrie in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state. Emphasizing "a whole person" approach to care, PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the community. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcomgeorgiahealth.org.

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Jamesia Harrison, MS
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