Who We Are
Who We Are
The idea to start Somos Hermanos was born out of an unmet need. Living in Los Angeles, the need to speak Spanish and understand different cultural perspectives in general is quite apparent in all aspects of life. But step inside a hospital or clinic, and the critical nature of language and cultural divides will hit you, and hit you hard. It is not uncommon to hear doctors or nurses speaking broken Spanish to confused patients, for diagnoses to take longer than normal or be inaccurate; for patients to feel afraid, frustrated, or simply not know what is going on with their health and how to remedy it.
It was through seeing first-hand the extent to which communication barriers affect the quality of care received by Latinos, and our belief that access to quality health care is a basic human right, that we were moved to action.
We were astonished by the lack of programs that combined language training with cultural immersion (one without the other is not sufficient). The few programs that did exist were too short to enable students to gain full competency, and too expensive for most students to afford.
It made sense to us that in order to provide a genuinely high standard of care to Spanish speaking patients, health care providers would need to acquire a level of Spanish that would enable them to fluidly communicate with patients without a translator or interpreter.
We also felt it was necessary for health care providers to have an awareness of the cultural and social factors that shape people’s perspectives towards health and medical care, and a glimpse into the realities that drive people to leave their homes and families and immigrate to the United States.
And finally, we firmly believed that an opportunity to gain these language and cultural skills should not be limited to those with financial wealth.
We designed the Somos Hermanos programs based on these principles, and today, since we started the organization in 2006, we’re pleased that we are achieving exactly what we set out to do.
To date, we’ve trained more than 380 health care providers in Spanish language and cultural competency. These individuals are already putting their skills and knowledge to use, and providing high quality care to all of the people they treat, Latino or non.
What’s more, we’ve found that the programs don’t just change how people practice medicine, but has a profound impact on their overall lives; they have a tendency to change perspectives and open eyes.
We look forward to continuing to impact both health care providers and the people that they serve.
Joe Herrold and Elise Wach
Joe is a Co-Founder of Somos Hermanos and a member of the Board of Directors. He studied Biology and International Relations at the University of Southern California. He continued at USC for medical school and residency in General Surgery.
During residency, he attended the Yale School of Public Health, where he earned his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in Global Health. Aside from Somos Hermanos, Joe is interested in the development and implementation of sustainable infrastructure and education for the delivery of surgical care in developing countries.
Elise is a Co-Founder of Somos Hermanos and a member of the Board of Directors. She is currently studying for her PhD at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience - CAWR in the UK.
Erin is a board member and had been a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California since 1990. She served as the Associate Dean of Admissions and Educational Affairs for 18 years. Erin has also taught at the undergraduate level for students in Baccalaureate M.D. program. Her most recent work has been at Associate Dean for Science and Health at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at USC, and developing new courses, volunteer opportunities and majors for undergraduate students.
Her career focus has been creating a health care workforce that is kind, caring, and diverse. A native of East Los Angeles, Dr. Quinn obtained a baccalaureate degree in political science and biology from Bennington College, a master’s degree in education from California State University, Los Angeles and a master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Health Administration from the University of Southern California. Her doctoral degree is the fields of Public Administration (Health) and Gerontology from USC.
Elizabeth is a board member and former field coordinator of Somos Hermanos. Her first degree in theatre and community engagement from the University of Texas at Austin led her to Quetzaltenango where she eventually found Somos Hermanos.
She is currently a labor and delivery nurse in Kalamazoo, MI and will soon graduate with her MSN from the University of Michigan to work as a certified-nurse midwife. Elizabeth is interested in women's health and the connection between access to appropriate care and women's rights in developing nations.