Almanzar is in her first few months as an internal medicine resident at MetroHealth and said her upbringing inspired her career choice.
“I grew up in the Dominican Republic where people didn’t have access to health care. The nearest hospital was about an hour away. So people were dying from preventable diseases such as asthma," she said. "So I saw the need in my community and I immediately thought that I should become a doctor to help my people."
She said she is proud to be Latina. Her family moved to New York City when she was 17, and that’s when Almanzar learned English. She came to the Cleveland area six years ago, after she found out about Northeast Ohio Medical University.
“The program actually was a great fit for me because that’s what I wanted to do. That was one of my missions, becoming a doctor to work with vulnerable communities," said Almanzar.
Almanzar said she aims to remove the language barrier many Hispanic people face when going to the doctor. She said many things get lost in translation and time to understand is a luxury rarely afforded in health care.
“I feel that patients do not get the same care because it takes a lot more time when a patient doesn’t speak English to actually set up the interpreter services," she said. “I know that Puerto Ricans or Dominicans are used to certain practices, but a provider who is not familiar with the culture may not know that and think that those are unusual.”
Increasing diversity in medicine is one of Almanzar's passions. She said at NEOMED; she was one of two Latinas in her class and it’s the same situation now in the Internal Medicine Department at MetroHealth.
“Hispanics are the largest growing minority in the United States. So I think we need to mirror our patient population," said Almanzar. "That’s why we need more Latinos in medicine."
On a typical day, Almanzar said she estimates more than half of her patients are Spanish-speaking. She said these kinds of patients often have complex issues.
“I have realized that with Spanish-speaking patients, I tend to spend more time because they have a lot more comorbidities, and also they want to address all of those problems in one visit which is impossible to do basically because sometimes we only get like 20 minutes with a patient," said Almanzar.
Building trust is a key part of patient care and as her career takes off, she said she looks forward to a lifetime of giving back to her community.
“When they hear me speak in Spanish, they’re surprised. They’re like ‘oh hablas Español.’ You speak Spanish. And that makes them very, very happy," Almanzar said. "They just smile and they feel more at ease. It’s almost a relief that I speak Spanish."