Lessons from Puerto Rico: We’re stronger together

February 03, 2018

By: Tanisha Rivera

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I’ve experienced firsthand the devastating effects Hurricane Maria has had on my local community and the Caribbean as a whole. In life, there will inevitably be highs and lows that point out our fragile stability. Sadly, this catastrophic event was a startling reminder of just how little control we have over that balance.

Luckily, all I needed to do for inspiration was look out my front door to see just how resilient a community can be when we work together. Within a matter of hours, my entire neighborhood united in a concerted effort to locate and gather water for our mutual survival. And months later, we’re still here, and we’re stronger together.

Since May of last year, I have been fortunate to work with the Diversity Coalition as an AMSA national leader. My life as a student working to support herself while also being an AMSA member has allowed me to connect with an astounding number of my peers and coworkers in health care over the last years. These relationships unite us, and show the powerful influence the future health care workforce has on asking elected officials for change.

I know AMSA Advocacy Day is a great chance for individuals to come together from various backgrounds and cultures who are all treading on a similar path. I also know that the proposed changes to reauthorize the Higher Education Act could worsen current barriers and create new obstacles for students from underrepresented communities in medicine who want to become health care providers. We must ask our elected officials to support programs, maintain regulations, and keep funding that ensures our future health care workforce is just as diverse as the communities it serves.

As a first time attendee of Advocacy Day, I think that this occasion (and others like it) present an invaluable opportunity for students in the medical community to leverage our relationships. I believe that if we can tap into the kind of encouraging group consciousness and resiliency on Advocacy Day–similar to what I’ve seen at home in Puerto Rico–that it will go a long way towards accomplishing our goals. As a trainee in the future health care workforce, I have continually found that working together and building relationships will always lead to better understanding and more success. These will prove to be critical tools to use when discussing change with elected officials.

I am incredibly grateful for the experience as an AMSA national leader because the people I have met have been a source of strength and support through my challenging time of uncertainty in Puerto Rico. I don’t want that type of uncertainty to exist for my future health care provider colleagues in regard to the ability to access education. Because of that, I feel that Advocacy Day is coming at a perfect time.  It culminates everything that has transpired over the last year and allows us to look forward to a bright 2018 and a superior future.  I am excited to see what we can achieve together as a community.  This event will be an important stepping stone toward more experience and affecting lasting change.  See you there!


Tanisha Rivera is a Pre medical trainee in Puerto Rico and AMSA National Leader on the Diversity Task Force.

Sign up here to join us on Capitol Hill for Advocacy Day at AMSA’s 2018 Annual Convention and Exposition, to be held March 8-11, 2018, in Washington, D.C.