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Latinx Heritage Month: A new connection with my culture

Gustavo Valbuena, Head of Foundational Sciences Through Problem Based Learning Curriculum, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program

Photo illustration by Fernando Augusto

To honor Latinx Heritage Month 2022, we asked Latinx members of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health community what the month means to them. We will be posting the responses throughout the month, which ends October 15, 2022.

Today, we feature Associate Professor Gustavo Valbuena, MD, PhD.

Berkeley Public Health: What is your role here at Berkeley Public Health and how long have you worked here?

Gustavo Valbuena: I am the head of the two branches of the curriculum for the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, and I have worked here for six years.

Where did you grow up and when did you immigrate here to the US?

I grew up in Bogota, Colombia. I lived there until age 26 when I moved to Texas (1996) to pursue my medical residency in Pathology and a PhD in Experimental Pathology.

What does Latinx Heritage Month mean to you? 

I grew up under the relentless influence of American colonialism, denying the value of my culture and creating a myth about the U.S. that led me to immigrate. This month’s celebration of Latinx heritage is an opportunity to build a new connection with my culture and a sense of belonging.

How do you celebrate your heritage? 

I celebrate my heritage by cooking the dishes I loved while growing up and dancing to the beautiful Latinx music that always elevates my spirit.

How do you share your heritage with your children?

I share my heritage with my children by cooking some of our favorite traditional food, by dancing together to our beautiful music, by visiting our family when possible, by going to the latinx market to get goodies from Colombia, by telling them about my upbringing and what made me happy as well as my struggles with social inequality.

How can the School of Public Health amplify and uplift the Latinx experience in healthcare and public health?

It would be nice to see the demographics of California reflected in our faculty composition.