By Sofie Schachter
Diego Cisneros, who recently graduated from UW–Madison with a bachelor’s degree in health promotion and health equity, will be starting medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles in August.
The Health Promotion and Health Equity (HPHE) program was co-created by the School of Education’s departments of Kinesiology, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, and is housed in the Department of Kinesiology. The program is designed to provide students with the skills and perspectives to facilitate healthy practices at the individual and societal levels. Students learn about the theoretical, problematic, and empirical foundations of health promotion and health equity interventions and are taught to demonstrate competence in evaluating strengths and weaknesses in health promotion programs.
Cisneros is originally from a suburb of Chicago, but came to UW–Madison because of “its incredible resources for pre-health students, its proximity to family, and the amazing school atmosphere.”
When talking about his experiences in the program, Cisneros spoke passionately about prevention versus intervention within the health field. “Obviously intervention in medicine is super important, but I feel like sometimes providers get lost in that lens, and forget that we should be spending a lot of our money and time on prevention too, and making sure our communities are healthy to begin with rather than treating them when they are already sick.”
Cisneros also strives to be a “culturally competent health care provider,” which he says means that he understands patient identities, and treats people with equity rather than equality.
“Being culturally competent means understanding that someone’s culture, the way they were raised, where they are from, has an impact on their health,” Cisneros says. “When you’re working with patients and certain populations you have to take into account their different intersectionalities and how those may play a role in their health and access to health.”
Some day, Cisneros adds, he would like to open his own clinic with other like-minded doctors. He would love to focus on serving the Latinx community, using his bilingualism to support patients in ways not many can, and offer pro-bono work for uninsured community members.
“HPHE taught me the importance of acknowledging my implicit biases, that every patient is different, and has made me more aware of dangerous practices that help perpetuate health disparities,” Cisneros says.