Just a few months before I was to begin medical school, I was mistaken for a maid.   I was with my with my husband’s family at a resort in a predominately white, affluent city in southern California.   We’ll keep it at that.  I’m brown and they’re not.  I am Mexican American and Irish.  I definitely look “ethnic” compared to the surrounding community.  My husband’s sister was getting married, and we had been at the wedding rehearsal in the hotel courtyard.  Being a cool, breezy, beachy afternoon, I decided to grab a sweatshirt from my hotel room before rehearsal dinner started.  I was walking across the spacious green grounds, when I was  stopped by the wedding planner.  She approached me, I recognized her, but let’s say she didn’t recognize me.  She looked at me very seriously and asked if I had completed cleaning all the rooms.  Not that I’m below cleaning rooms.  Until that time, I had only been a waitress and a college student in my very simple life.   I hail from very humble beginnings, my father was a truck driver and my mother worked for the local phone company.   I am the eldest of 3 children, born and reared in a small town where you knew everyone.  I laughed and said I was the sister-in-law of the bride-to-be.  Not a maid at the hotel .  She didn’t seem bothered by her comment, or my response, and truthfully ,I could care less.  Let’s just say my husband wasn’t too happy when I  Little did he know at that time I have turned these comments throughout my life into challenges.  I don’t think my husband realized at the time, less has always been expected from me from many institutions because of my ethnicity.  

I think the first time it was blatantly placed in front of me and I was able to intellectually identify it ,was when I was a junior in high school.  I was a straight -A student, honor roll recipient, and all that good stuff. I was in GATE, damn it.  We were meeting with our ‘counselors’ for guidance and post-graduation planning. I had never really met with this counselor before.  I don’t even know how much of my file she had read, how much she really knew about me.  Her first question was to ask me if I had considered going to cosmetology school.  I was floored.  I told her no.  I was planning on attending a local 4 year state university.  She wished me luck and that was that.  Challenge accepted.  I actually drove the university to pick up an application.  Downloading an application was not an option at that time.  It was 1984.

A couple years later while attending Cal State Fullerton, I was waitressing at a local restaurant, when I saw a previous high school classmate.  We were chatting when she asked me what I was studying in college.  I told her I was a biology major and thinking of going to medical school when her response was, “You?”  Wait.  Didn’t we take honors English together?  Weren’t we in the same advanced calculus clas?  Didn’t we both take the SAT?  Challenge accepted, missy.

Fast forward 15 years, a bachelor’s degree, successful completion of medical school, residency trained , board certified physician…  location….rich beach town USA, I am enjoying a lovely afternoon with my son at a park. He’s blond hair, blue eyed.  My son in a swing, when a small child runs  in front of my swinging kid.  I’m immediately identified as the nanny by local mother in her yoga-pilates uniform with her nanny.  I am told that I don’t know how to watch my child.  Wait.  He’s on the swing.  Your kid ran in front of us.  Didn’t I stop the swing and avoid a good head injury.  We exchanged a few words.  I won.  Challenge accepted.

Even now that I am a practicing physician, I am still occasionally mistaken for a nurse, a phlebotomist, housekeeping staff or dietary service in the hospital.  I tell all my patients I could never be a nurse.  I’d get fired on my first day.  I refuse to wear a white coat because they’re hot and binding.  Even when my name tag is front and center, even when I introduce myself immediately with a firm handshake, it still doesn’t click.  Yes, I’m the doctor, I tell them after I have been treating them for several hours.  I have come to comfortably embrace the misidentifications.  I often get to see the world from two very different sides, both of these side are have always been and continue to drift within me.  I proudly and confidently navigate through two worlds.  I get much more information from a patient when they think I’m their nurse or the registration clerk.  I take advantage of it.  I have come to see this as my advantage now.  I’m sure challenges will continue, and I will continue to meet these challenges.  

All my Best,

Dr. Christina Holtz - ER Physician

June 02, 2016 — Arthur Lucero

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