Casey Santana from CODA Advisory Council
It did not take long before Casey warmed up to our conversation. He immediately began reminiscing about the intense training and supportive environment of his GEMS program.
When asked about his relationship with Dean Taylor, the head of the GEMS program and Associate Dean for Student Learning, he said that “He is truly one of the most passionate people I know and he loves his job.” Pausing for a moment, he finished by saying “he is definitely a person I look up to and who I would like to model myself after.”
Supporting Students of Color
Casey paused for a moment, and shared that, “Even though Gems is a wonderful program and brings in diverse students, I think we can find other avenues of doing so.”
“Along with Doctor Cheng, I am also a part of the student advisory council, CODA,” said Casey. “I think it really is a great opportunity to become more aware of diversity in the school and to see how we can make individuals from diverse backgrounds more comfortable. One thing that I am trying to do with it is to try to find out how we can get more Latino and Black applicants into Georgetown. I have noticed throughout my time here that the representation from Latino and Black students is low.”
Once he becomes a licensed physician, Casey wants to work with marginalized communities. He mentioned how “growing up my mother only spoke Spanish. And there have been some issues in the past because physicians who don’t speak Spanish have had miscommunications, some that were potentially life threatening. So I remember when I was younger, I would have to translate for her for hospital appointments, which I found later on is not appropriate. You don’t ask a child to translate because there is sensitive information there and children tend to pick and choose what they believe is important rather than giving the full story.”
In addition to his work on the CODA advisory council, Casey is also a co-president of HoyaMedAlliance, the LGBTQ student organization. “Kind of in a similar manner to the way there are few students of color at Georgetown, I have also noticed that there are few openly LGBT students at Georgetown, specifically my year and the years above us,” Casey shared.
Casey wants, “to bring more awareness to students, because we do not have much in terms of LGBT education and health.” In addition to serving non-English speakers, Casey, “would like to focus on gay and lesbian health as well. Again, it’s not something we spend much time on and there are particular things that go into those groups as well.”
Navigating Intertwined Identities
Casey elaborated on the difficulty in holding two or more salient oppressed identities. “One of the things I do want to do is – and I’m still trying to figure out the logistics – is to focus on that intersection because I am a double minority in a way, as a Latino man and as a gay man,” he said. “And you know that’s something that is seen not only in these schools but in the population in general where gay pride festivals are predominately dominated by white gay males.”
In closing, Casey focused on how, “when I was really young and everyone said ‘you know, America is about equality,’ I took it to heart. So seeing that that is not necessarily the case, as subtle as it can be at times, I think that kind of woke that in me,” said Casey.
“The childhood version of me is like, it’s supposed to be like this but it’s not, and I think that is what drives me,” Casey finished, “basically trying to make it the way childhood-version of me thought it was.”