Award winner, Ariel M. Morrow and Adeola Oduwole, director of UTMB Diversity & Inclusion.First-year School of Health Professions student, Ariel M. Morrow was the recipient of  the Hector P. Garcia M.D. 2013 Cultural Competence award, which recognizes a student who demonstrates commitment to providing quality health care to all by incorporating cultural knowledge and skills in service to others. 

Dr. Hector P. Garcia graduated from the medical branch in 1940 and went on to serve as a decorated hero in World War II. On his return, he founded the G.I. Forum, which became one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and was appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In 1984, he was the first Mexican-American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor, awarded by President Ronald Reagan.

Hector P. Garcia, M.D. 2013 Cultural Competence Essay

“Nimen hao ma?” I say to kindergarten class in Adjeikrom, Ghana. “Hao!” responds the delighted chorus of students. Through an academic pipeline program at our university, our group organized a service learning initiative to provide school supplies to the children who attended the Kentucky Academy. As we distributed the supplies, I took the time to help the children practice speaking Chinese. I was filled with joy as I gazed
around the classroom at their gleaming smiles; immediately I knew that this is what a true community is. Through community service initiatives that I have been part of, in the United States and abroad, I have observed many disparities in healthcare. My pursuit of becoming a medical professional is driven by both my passion for community service and my desire to address the voids I have observed in communities that are not able to
provide adequate healthcare.
When I was 16, my gynecologist, Dr. Rhodesia LaStrap, diagnosed me with endometriosis. I became interested in learning about my condition because I was determined overcome the debilitating effects of the pain. I conducted my own personal research and asked Dr. LaStrap many questions during my visits to her office. The interest in my condition expanded into a deeper interest in medicine. I mentioned my interests during a visit with Dr. LaStrap and she invited me to shadow her in order for me to gain first-hand perspective of the medical profession. My shadowing experiences with Dr. LaStrap were absolutely incredible. I had the opportunity to observe both vaginal and cesarean section births, as well as sonograms, and routine patient visits. I was inspired by the efforts of the medical team as they actively worked together to orchestrate the
delivery of our most precious asset, humanity. Through those experiences, my life was forever changed; I saw my future self as an instrumental member of the medical team and knew that it was my calling to become a medical professional.
While serving as an officer in the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, I observed a disparity within our small community of pre-health students in Prairie View. Our community of students passionately pursued a medical education, yet we lacked the knowledge or resources needed to matriculate into health professional schools. I took the initiative to co-coordinate a health conference at my university. After nine months of organizing, our bootstrapped, student-led initiative became the Prairie View A&M Health Professions Conference. The conference met the needs of the students and provided our university with nationwide recognition. Many students gained early acceptances and even matriculation into a variety of health sciences programs. We also raised $10,000 for the student pre-health organizations to fund many health-related initiatives, serving to further our efforts in becoming the future healthcare providers of America.
Dr. Hector Garcia’s daughter, Cecilia Garcia Akers, Ariel M. Morrow and Dr. Betty Protas,vice president and dean of the UTMB School of Health Professions. While studying in Ghana, I gained an understanding of the concept “21st Century Community”. I observed productive partnerships between individuals regardless of cultural background, united through humanity to achieve a common goal. I toured a teaching hospital in Kumasi and a small community clinic in Aseseeso. In a discussion panel hosted by the hospital director, I learned that through international support from citizens within the community, the New-Jaben municipality, and the education fund created by King Osei Tutu II, as well as global contributors from the United States, China and elsewhere, the Ghanaian healthcare system is working to improve indigent patient outcomes and decrease rural reliance on traditional medicine. To do so, they built a fourtiered system that provided Ghanaian citizens with universal healthcare access in ways similar to those provided by the Affordable Care Act.
Upon return from Ghana, I participated in the Medical School Matriculation Program at the University of Texas Medical Branch. During the program, I took part in service learning initiatives at the Jesse Tree and St. Vincent’s House. I once again saw the importance of community involvement in order to provide citizens and patients alike with support, information and access to adequate medical resources. Through service learning initiatives, I understood the value of community health as a means to bridge the gap between underserved populations and access to health services in order to improve the community’s overall quality of life.
My purpose in life is best summarized by a quote from Mother Teresa, “The fruit of faith is love, and the fruit of love is service.” I see the need for healthcare in underserved communities and have a passion to actively serve. I believe that the unfulfilled needs of those who go without should not be overlooked; ultimately, we are all connected through our humanity. Because of my observations, I am determined to become a medical professional and to use my medical expertise and cultural awareness as tools to serve the needs of underserved individuals within my community. By receiving the Hector P. Garcia Cultural Competence Award, I will be one step closer to fulfilling my mission of providing necessary care to underserved citizens.