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Andrea Arguello and Irena Cabrera (from left), students at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM), confer with H. Roger Hadley
Andrea Arguello and Irena Cabrera (from left), students at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM), confer with H. Roger Hadley, MD, dean of the School. Ms. Arguello and Ms. Cabrera are scheduled to graduate with their MD degrees in 2011. According to The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, LLUSM ranks 15th among American medical schools.
According to the May 4, 2009, edition of The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, Loma Linda University ranks 26th overall among the top 100 colleges offering doctoral degree programs to Hispanics.

In addition to the University itself, three other LLU entities shared the honors among schools offering professional degrees to Hispanics: the School of Dentistry tied for 9th; the School of Pharmacy tied for 7th; and the School of Medicine ranks 15th among American medical schools.

How did LLU attain the high ranking? University officials and students cite three reasons—location, recruitment, and role modeling—as prominent factors in the University’s high scores in diversity.

“Loma Linda’s success in enrolling Hispanic students has been directly related to an aggressive pipeline program organized and nurtured by the School of Medicine’s ethnically diverse faculty,” says H. Roger Hadley, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “These programs bring students as early as junior high and as late as graduate school on campus and introduce them to career options as a physician and/or research scientist.”

“Students around the country, including Hispanics, are eagerly looking for educational experiences that fully prepare them to serve in a society that is becoming increasingly more diverse and multicultural,” notes Marino De Leon, PhD, director of the Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine.

How diverse is LLU? Dr. De Leon reports that more than 80 countries are represented on campus, and at least 50 percent of LLU students are Hispanic, African American, Pacific Islander/ Asian, or Native American.

“The University shows its commitment to sustain this rich, multicultural, diverse experience for our students by having an extensive array of pipeline programs funded through the National Institutes of Health,” he asserts.

The programs—which are focused on increasing diversity—have provided research training to over 350 students. The programs not only benefit individual participants, but also serve as a magnet to attract other students interested in the type of educational experiences LLU offers, says Dr. De Leon.

Dr. De Leon says that although these pipeline programs have received significant extramural funding only for the last 10 years, a total of 61 past participants are either currently enrolled in doctoral studies here or at other universities, or have already graduated, and are currently serving as health professionals.

“Having a rich multicultural educational environment,” he concludes, “and high quality doctoral programs is in part responsible for the high success LLU has had in enrolling and graduating a significant number of students from diverse backgrounds, including Hispanics, with doctoral degrees.”

“It is a pleasure to be located in Southern California where we are richly blessed with a significant Hispanic population,” notes Rick E. Williams, PhD, vice president for enrollment management and student services at LLU. “As a result, we aggressively seek Hispanic applicants who are committed to service through health care.”

Douglas Hackleman, MA, director of marketing and publications at the School of Dentistry, agrees. “Since the late 1990s, LLUSD has proactively recruited minority students in cooperation with a Loma Linda University-wide effort titled MITHS (minorities interested in the health sciences). In 2005, Loma Linda University initiated ‘Si Se Puede’ (Spanish for ‘yes we can!’), a summer recruitment program that introduces Hispanic Seventh-day Adventist high school students to the health sciences professions. In 2008, the School started a summer program titled ‘Minorities in Dentistry.’”

LLU is not alone in seeking to recruit Hispanic students. According to Esther Valenzuela, RN, MA, MBA, director of admissions at the School of Dentistry, “every dental school in America is looking for Hispanic students. Dentistry and dental hygiene are both a brilliant choice, and a natural fit, for Hispanics who place such a high priority on family time. The opportunities within dentistry are incredible!”
The need for Hispanic health professionals is great. “Because of the disparity between the ratio of Hispanic dentists to the Hispanic population, we welcome and encourage as many applicants as possible,” notes Fred Kasischke, DMin, associate dean for admissions and service learning at the School of Dentistry.

Linda M. Williams, MS, assistant dean for student affairs and admissions at the School of Pharmacy, says the School “realizes the strong need to educate the Hispanic population to the profession of pharmacy. Being located among a large Hispanic population, the opportunity exists for fostering an interest in the profession of pharmacy among not only college-age youth, but also to begin education in the lower grades as well. Educating Hispanic pharmacists allows these individuals to return to their neighborhoods to provide ‘whole-person’ care to their Hispanic patients, and improve their quality of life.”

Role modeling is another factor in LLU’s success. Tony Valenzuela, DPT, EdD, assistant professor of physical therapy, and president of Hispanic Alumni of LLU, recalls his undergraduate experience on the campus of LLU-La Sierra in the late 1970s. In those days, there was only one Hispanic on the entire campus with a PhD.

“She became my academic advisor, role model, and friend,” he recalls. “Now 30 years later, I’m serving as that same mentor for many Hispanic students. In the 20 years I’ve been at LLU, we have established the Hispanic Faculty Forum, the Hispanic Alumni of LLU, and ‘Si Se Puede,’ our summer program, which allows Hispanic high school students to come to LLU, shadow a Hispanic faculty member, and learn of opportunities in the health field.”

Three Hispanic students share their observations on how these programs and aspirations translate into everyday academic reality at the University.
“The LLU School of Dentistry is a great candidate for receiving this honor among Hispanic schools,” says Isaac Penalba, a third-year student, “because of the tremendous opportunities it gives Latino students. It is not merely a great institution of higher learning, but it also offers a place where we can use our Hispanic background and language skills to reach out to other Hispanics in our local and international community.”

Mr. Penalba also stresses the value of hands-on clinical training, and LLU’s emphasis on global mission. “Through my own experiences doing dental checkups for Latinos in Rialto, serving the disadvantaged in Compassion Clinic in San Bernardino, and reaching out to the poor in Nicaragua, I have learned how my status as a Latino minority is a gift that I can use to better serve the dental needs of my community, and not only change others, but be changed.”

Stephanie Calvillo, also a third-year dental student, agrees. “The School is very service-oriented, and offers many mission trips to Latin American countries where one can feel at home while providing treatment to those in need.

“We also provide services to the local community,” she continues, “by educating its youth about dentistry in our annual minorities in dentistry program, where we invite them to learn from alumni, students, and staff. Although the number of Hispanic students in the School is not as large as I would like, it is nice to be able to identify with the few who share a similar culture as mine.” As a member of the School’s diversity committee, Ms. Calvillo notes that additional alumni support is needed to enhance recruitment and provide minority scholarships.

But perhaps the bottom line for many Hispanic students is the fact that the academic environment of LLU makes them feel comfortable. That’s the conclusion of Yamel Ramirez, another third-year student from the School of Dentistry. When asked what he likes best about attending LLU, Mr. Ramirez boils everything down to equality.

"I love the sense of community, and the feeling of intimacy with the administrators, faculty, staff, and classmates,” he says. “As part of the LLUSD family, I am an equal. It doesn’t matter whether I’m a first-year or third-year student; what matters is that I am treated like a human being, and that brings with it a sense of belonging."

By James Ponder
Isaac and Stephanie
Isaac Penalba and Stephanie Calvillo, third year students in the LLU School of Dentistry, think Loma Linda University deserves the high score it received from The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. Mr. Penalba LLU, "offers a place where we can use our Hispanic background and language skills to reach out to other Hispanics in our local and international community." Ms. Calvillo adds that the School of Dentistry "provides services to the local community by educating its youth about dentistry in our annual minorities in dentistry program."
Center for Health Dsparities
Pipeline programs, which channel Inland Empire high school and undergraduate students into professional health careers, are a big factor in Loma Linda University’s recruitment success among Hispanics and members of other minorities. Members of the summer 2009 program recently met with LLUAHSC President Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, (gray shirt in the center) who discussed LLU’s commitment to global health. Next to Dr. Hart are Marino De Leon, PhD, director of the Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine at LLU. Next to Dr. De Leon is Elaine A. Vanterpool, PhD, and her husband, Conwin K. Vanterpool, PhD. Dr. Elaine Vanterpool is an assistant professor in biology at Oakwood University, in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Conwin Vanterpool holds the same position at Alabama A & M University in Normal, Alabama. Both Drs. Vanterpool, who are mentoring students in the summer program, are LLU graduates.
Yamel Ramirez
Yamel Ramirez, a third year LLU School of Dentistry (LLUSD) student, reports that he enjoys being treated with equality. “What matters,” he says, “is that I am treated like a human being.” Mr. Ramirez made his comments in response to an article in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, which places LLUSD in a tie for 9th place among schools offering professional dental degrees to Hispanics.
Fabian and Lori
Fabian Rodriguez, a third-year student at the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy, enjoys a relaxing moment with Lori Mendoza, PharmD, director for institutional practice, division of experiential education. According to The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, the LLU School of Pharmacy ties for 7th place among schools offering professional pharmacy degrees to Hispanics.