Fidencio Saldaña, MD/MPH
A Faculty Reflection
As a prospective Harvard Medical student in 1996, I never could have imagined being where I am today. I recall visiting Harvard Medical School (HMS) during the underrepresented minority revisit weekend. I was in awe that I would finally have the opportunity to become a physician. I came from a humble background. My parents were both immigrants from Mexico who only had the opportunity of an elementary school education. At the time, HMS appeared to be a daunting place – one where I did not necessarily belong. However, during that weekend I was fortunate to meet a cadre of faculty and students from similar backgrounds to my own, who helped me put aside those feelings. They insisted that not only did I belonged in medical school, there was a large population of patients who desperately needed me to be their physician.
My passion at the time was to become a physician that would help take care of underserved patients – specifically those of Spanish-speaking heritage. I wanted to be their linguistic and cultural interpreter to the world of medicine. I soon became the beneficiary of wonderful mentors who were crucial in allowing me to fulfill this dream. I vividly remember one of my first conversations with Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Director of the Office of Recruitment and Multicultural Affairs at HMS. He is unaware that he was the first person who made me believe that I could pursue a career in academic medicine. Dr. Poussaint insisted that I could serve these patients on an individual as well as a collective level. He believed in both my capacity as a leader as well as my ability to have a broad impact on this population of patients.
Today I am part of the Harvard Medical School faculty. I am proud to say that the passion I felt as a prospective student has only grown with time. I am a clinical cardiologist and cardiac imager who serves Spanish-speaking Latino/a patients at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) as well as BWH affiliated community health centers. As I continue to build my practice, I am working to develop programs to improve the health of Latino/a patients beyond the clinic. I am humbled on a daily basis by the gratitude in patient’s voices when I am able to communicate with them in their own language and culture while providing them with the highest quality in cardiovascular care. I enjoy being able to share this experience with the medical students and residents that join me in clinic.
In addition to being a clinician, I have the privilege of serving as an educator both at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital as well as Harvard Medical School. For the last two years I have served as co-director of the HMS Clinical Skills course based at BWH. One of my most memorable moments in teaching happened the first day of the course, when I looked out into the crowd and saw one Latino and one African American student. I felt a great sense of pride that I was able to serve as a role model, a fellow minority in an educational leadership position. I will continue to foster these educational roles and build on them into the future.
My third role was not initially part of formal job description, but it is a role I take very seriously. It is that of mentor – to all fellows, residents, and students, not just underrepresented minorities. I am a strong believer that we all have something to offer those who are coming up behind us. I would not be where I am today were it not for the paths paved by those that came before me. It came as a surprise when I was awarded the excellence in mentoring award by the HMS underrepresented minority medical students in 2008. It is an incredible honor to know that you have affected the lives of a group of individuals in such a positive manner. This past year I was named as Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Director of the Office of Recruitment and Multicultural Affairs at HMS where I serve as an advocate for recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority medical students.
As a successful minority physician, I believe it is my calling to use my talents as clinician, educator, and mentor to support the careers of the minority physicians of the future.
Fidencio Saldaña, M.D., M.P.H.
Brigham and Women's/Faulkner Cardiology
Assistant Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency
Instructor, Harvard Medical School