MCW celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Sept. 20, 2016 MCW News - In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the Medical College of Wisconsin is publishing a series of stories that highlight and celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of individuals whose ancestors came from Spain, Portugal, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. We also will post a vignette that highlights a Hispanic member of the MCW community. 

All of the vignettes and stories will be posted on MCW’s Honoring Diversity webpage.

Most heritage months take place within a particular calendar month, but Hispanic Heritage Month is held over parts of two months to incorporate significant dates within the Hispanic community: Sept. 15, which is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; Sept. 16, which is the anniversary of Mexico’s independence; Sept. 18, which is the anniversary of Chile’s independence; Sept. 21, which is the anniversary of Belize’s independence; and Oct. 12, which is Columbus Day. Columbus Day celebrates the day in 1492 when Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus discovered America.

We also would like to hear from you.
We ask Hispanic members of the MCW community to offer some insights on your culture. Answers will be shared in a future Hispanic Heritage Month story. Take the Cultural/Group Identity survey

This week, we would like to share some quantitative information about the Hispanic community and highlight some members of the Hispanic community who made significant contributions to medicine and the sciences.

Hispanic culture in the United States – by the numbers

  • 55 million – or 17% of the population of the U.S. is of Hispanic or Latino origin.
  • 2.3 million – Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S.
  • 1.2 million – Hispanics or Latinos 18 and older who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Hispanic community members who made significant contributions to medicine and the sciences


Severo OchoaSevero Ochoa

Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine and Physiology (Spanish American, 1905-1993)
Severo Ochoa won the Nobel Prize in 1959 for medicine. He received the prize for his discovery of the process that would allow humans to create RNA in a test tube — a vital life substance that makes cells work and grow. This knowledge can be useful in understanding many things about the body, like why some cells stay healthy while tumors grow in others.



Antonia C. Novello

Antonia C. NovelloDoctor, Former United States Surgeon General (Puerto Rican, born 1944)
In 1990, Antonia Novello became the first Hispanic person — and first woman as well — to be appointed as Surgeon General, the chief doctor in the United States. As a child, she had a chronic illness that hurt her digestion, causing her great suffering. She never forgot that experience. As surgeon general, Novello especially campaigned for better care for children. She also paid special attention to the problems of alcoholism, smoking, AIDS, and violence.




Carlos Juan Finlay

Carlos Juan FinlayPhysician (Cuban American, 1833–1915)
Carlos Juan Finlay solved the mystery of what caused yellow fever. This deadly disease had no known cure just over 100 years ago and killed thousands of people. In 1881, he discovered that mosquitoes spread yellow fever, but he could not prove it. Other scientists did not believe him. They made fun of him, calling him the mosquito man. Eventually, because of the work of Finlay and Walter Reed, another important physician, scientists were able to develop a vaccine using diseased mosquitoes and conquer this disease.



The Medical College of Wisconsin prides itself on being an inclusive community where all individuals are valued and respected. We are committed to recognizing, understanding and appreciating the variety of individual differences that make up our community because we know that these differences make our community stronger and more vibrant. The diversity of MCW continues to be an important source of innovative ideas and creative accomplishments.

Throughout the year, we aim to celebrate the stories and histories of ethnic and cultural identities because together, all of these stories make up the larger United States narrative. We hope that through these stories and vignettes, we can honor the diversity of our faculty, staff and students and promote inclusion for all those who make up our community.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for how we can celebrate cultural/group identities at MCW, please share with our editorial team,



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