¡De Veras Que… Si Se Puede! It’s True That It Can Be Done

¡De Veras Que… Si Se Puede! It’s True That It Can Be Done

By: Queta “Ketta” Cardona

It was my 2nd semester of college at NEIU; I was in my 2nd week of class. The professor asked if anyone had applied to the summer research program at ChicagoCHEC that had been announced through email. I quickly stated, “No, it’s not for me. That’s for science people. I’m not a science person.” I was really thinking: “There’s no room for someone like me in that world. So, why even try.”


Dr. Ciecierski then talked about how any student interested in learning about health disparities and making  a difference in underserved communities could apply. She also said something about how they were looking for “other” voices, too. I took that to mean that even if I did not consider myself a “science” person, maybe I could still make an impact in my community…So, I applied.

A few months later, I sat in the Baldwin Auditorium of the Lurie Research Building at the Northwestern University Campus! There I was… a door had been opened for me. And, I was being welcomed into a world of academia that I had always dreamed about, but in which I could never take part – until that 1st day of the Research Fellows Program.


Here are some insights into my experience and gains.

Aquí comparto ideas sobre mis experiencias.

Cancer – What is it?

Dr. Jonathan Moreira taught us that cancer is a spectrum of diseases; according to the NIH, cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues, destroying the tissue.1

Health – It is a basic right. Es un derecho.

By the end of the 1st week I learned that health care in our country is treated as a commodity. Many view it as a product that can be bought and sold, such as a loaf of bread or a car. We discussed how this approach was leaving the vulnerable, the underserved, and even us on the fringes. We studied the barriers to health care that exist in our communities: poverty, racism, education, geography, policy, etc.

And, I began to wonder about the relationship between the loaf of bread and health care. So, I asked…how can we eat if we don’t have the money for the loaf of bread? Or, what happens when we have the money for the loaf, but the store is too far away for us to buy it? How then, do we eat? How can we have health if we can’t afford to be treated? How can we be healthy if we don’t have quality care near us?

Today I understand that these barriers need to be addressed because quality health care is a basic need to which everyone should have access.

“I think my sense of what was happening to people’s health,” she explained, “was that it was really determined by what was happening in society— by the degree of poverty and inequality you had.”

Helen Rodríguez Trías


El atención médica de calidad es una necesidad básica a la que todos deberían tener acceso. It’s moral and ethical.

It’s just Right! ¡Es correcto!

Equity – Equality isn’t always equal.

According to the (WHO), “Equity is the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether  those  groups  are  defined  socially,   economically,   demographically,   or   geographically.   Health inequities therefore involve more than inequality with respect to health determinants, access to the resources needed to improve and maintain health or health outcomes. They also entail a failure to avoid or overcome inequalities that infringe on fairness and human rights norms.” 2

Journal Club was probably one of my favorite exercises in my Fellowship. We read and discussed such eye opening books as The Death Gap, by David A. Ansell and Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington where the theme of inequity was discoursed. These discussions and other lectures helped me to grasp the difference between equality and equity. It came as a deeply personal revelation that I had never really considered how equality isn’t always equal. I am now more aware of the inequities in healthcare and strive to advocate their relief, especially in communities who have long been overlooked.

Collaborative – What we can do.

My peers were amazingly talented students from various colleges and universities in the Chicagoland area. They had varying backgrounds, career goals, and interests. Yet, we quickly became cohesive in the effort to acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to help address and change the health disparities we studied. One peer has learned to speak Spanish because she wants to make a global  impact on  health disparities. Another peer uses his economics degree and entrepreneurial interests to spread the message of identity and advocacy. I was also honored to work alongside a graphic designer who, after seeing the disparities in mental health treatment for the incarcerated, decided to return to get her M.D. so that she can directly serve that population.

We learned from researchers to artists. I saw that my voice makes a difference because it comes from a different yet valuable perspective. It gave me a greater appreciation for diversity in perspectives and approaches.

¿Y a hora qué?

I’m eager to return to my community and to support my neighbors as they face the issues that affect their health outcomes. I know I can personally help disseminate information on the prevention or early detection and/or treatment of cancer. I know I can direct my neighbors and friends to the community partners who offer services that help to bring health equity to my community. And finally, I will apply what I witnessed among the many guest lecturers and professors I had the honor to learn from; I will remain humble, relatable, and be part of the growing number of individuals who are closely involved with ensuring that health is everyone’s right no matter our skin color, language, neighborhood, level of education, or socioeconomic status. Sé que puedo ayudar personalmente a diseminar información sobre la prevención o detección temprana, y el tratamiento del cáncer.

About me:

Orgullosa de ser hija “primera generación” de padres inmigrantes mexicanos que me enseñaron el valor de mis raíces culturales. Born and raised in Chicago, I was raised by Mexican immigrant parents who gave me strong cultural and community roots. They taught me to look out for the less fortunate, which I have done for most of my adult life. After a long absence from college, I recently returned to finish my bachelor’s so that I could be better equipped to continue making an impact in the community. I plan to continue pursuing higher education with the emphasis on public health and public policy.



1. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer
2. http://www.who.int/healthsystems/topics/equity/en/




The views expressed in this paper are exclusively those of the author and not necessarily representative of the organizations the author represents nor the ChicagoCHEC organization. This work is solely intended to help further disseminate information related to ChicagoCHEC’s cause and stimulate dialogue about important topics. It is not a report by ChicagoCHEC itself and must not be treated as such.