School of Medicine

Cultural Calendar

Cultural events and celebrations are a reflection of our community's rich diversity. At the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, we value all characteristics and identities that make our students, staff and faculty diverse and elevate our department. The DFPM cultural calendar is not static nor exhaustive. However, we hope to highlight events relevant to our community. Personal narratives in the DFPM weekly newsletter will accompany many of these cultural dates. We hope many will share their experience and perspective.

  Poverty Awareness Month US
6 Epiphany Christian
17 Martin Luther King Jr Day (2022) US
  Black History Month US
1 Lunar New Year China
20 World Day of Social Justice International
  Developmental Disabilities Month  
  Women's History Month  
17 St. Patrick’s Day International
21 International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination International
  Arab American Heritage Month  
  Autism Awareness Month  
2 Ramadan (Apr 2 - May 2, 2022) Muslim
15 Passover (15th - 23rd, 2022) Jewish
17 Easter (2022) Christian
  Asian Pacific American Heritage Month  
  Jewish American Heritage Month  
5 Cinco de Mayo Mexican American
30 Memorial Day US
  Caribbean American Heritage Month  

Pride month to me is a time of celebration, acceptance and love. I look forward to June every year as the birth of a new summer and a season to feel free to be myself in a way that is different than other times of the year. Although I am not closeted in any way, I often time feel a sense of stigma and vulnerability expressing affection and love for my spouse in public, as if I am taking a bold step each time I reach for their hand. But in June each year, somehow, that step feels a bit smaller and less vulnerable. I feel a sense of belonging, love and acceptance as I drive down city streets passing rainbow flags proudly flown by various members of society. I am filled with joy, happiness and a hope that, with time, June will be a yearlong season and I am thankful for the progress our City has made to be more inclusive of all members the LQBTQIA community. Yes, we have a long way to go, however I reflect back on my first Pride, a one day celebration, often associated with a sense of fear, unsure if we were physically safe once leaving that city park. It has now grown in to a month long celebration with support from cities, allies, and local, national and international businesses. A movement I am proud to be a part of and I look forward to celebrating my authentic self this month.


Juneteenth commemorates the day when slaves in Texas were officially freed, June 19, 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation was enforced by Union Army officials soon after the Civil War. However, it took Union Army officials over 2 years to get to Texas, the most remote state of the union at that time. This day holds a special place in the hearts of many African Americans, because it symbolizes the humanization of our people, though systematic oppression has continued for many subsequent generations, i.e. sharecropping, Jim Crow, separate but equal, geographic red lining, racial profiling, etc.

As an adolescent, I remember recognizing Juneteenth by visiting the Allensworth Historic Park in the San Joaquin Valley near Los Angeles, California. Allensworth was a township founded by retired Colonel Allen Allensworth to give Black people the opportunity to live the “American Dream.” I remember visiting the replica of this old Western town and reliving the excitement many enslaved people felt when they learned of their freedom. But, I also remember the frustration of wondering why it took so long for many to realize the freedom granted by the Emancipation Proclamation. (“I’m sure slave owners new about it…” I lamented.) This mixture of pride and anger still resonates with me today, as another Juneteenth comes. However, this is a time to celebrate progression and the hope of better to come. As a nation, as a people, we are moving forward towards a brighter future.

- Jessica L. Jones, MD, MSPH
Associate Professor

20 World Refugee Day International
4 Independence Day US
9 International Day of Indigenous People International
26 Women's Equality Day US

Feed my soul

The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever. Sonia Sotomayor.

During Hispanic heritage month, I don’t want to spend time discussing what to call us, since so many are devoting their energy and input to the label conversation. Today, I know they all mean me, or us (Latino, Latinx, Latin, Spanish, Hispanic) though I think I have my preference. When I first came to go to school in the US, I preferred people used my specific subgroup of Puerto Rican. I grew up and was raised on the island (PR), with mostly Puerto Ricans. Collective labels only meant that far away in the US, there were more people with Latino heritages spanning the continents of North, Central and South America (including the Caribbean) and the originator of our language, Spain, placed under one umbrella. However, most akin to me was the ‘Nuyorican’ variety of Puerto Rican, to whom the Spanish language was optional albeit desirable to their proud and grateful claim to the island in their blood.

Once in the US, Pennsylvania received me with mixed emotions. Seton Hill University gave me a bachelor degree, and a husband, from nearby Saint Vincent University. That determined my definite move to the mainland. Now I go to PR only sporadically for vacations. Yet, every day of my life, I think I am waking up in my bed in Caguas, Puerto Rico, with chickens outside my window. (I must caution you that not all Puerto Ricans have chickens roaming outside, it was just my dad’s need to have a bit of his rural upbringing with us in the city.)

My life spectrum mirrors the evolution of Latino migration, initially most prominent in the Northeastern states, followed by the Southern states, and then to other parts less traveled. My dear colleagues and friends in every town, every state, were pallbearers of my sorrow every time I had to move, as I searched for work that was meaningful in bridging gaps in health equity. We have moved six times, across states and time zones. Navigation in and out of these geographies is proof positive that Hispanic roots can grow in any good soil. Every time, I found new collaborators who were welcoming inside and outside of universities, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to work on my own initiatives, research, projects, and dreams.

I was often the only Latina in the surrounding areas of my jobs within systems. Latinxs were outside, in the communities. What I have been given is opportunities to do work conducive to bridge that void, where health inequities reside. Because I know that what needs to be done takes rethinking and transformation, in cohesive work with communities directly, I am never lost, regardless of my geography. Even if this is not the country of my birth, home is where my husband and daughter are, my dog, friends, family I adopt along the way, not unlike my family everywhere in PR and elsewhere. Family is the people that call you, feed you, send you gifts, ask you questions, tell you what to do with yourself when you lose your way, and enjoy your funny little ways.

At first back in Pennsylvania, I used to feel like I did not belong, like I did not want to speak loudly, battered by the condescension of some, or those who presumed me incompetent because of my skin color or speech. Yet I found some mentors that were interested in me, that saw my potential and showed me how to raise my sails to catch the most powerful winds. Within this journey, I have come to see myself as a member of, or ally to, different populations of ‘others’ in the United States. Our paths have many similarities, and their fights resonate with me and feed my soul, as diverse peoples of the world. But in the end, the best of me, the love I spread, is the Latina ember that blazes within me forever.

5 Labor Day US
25 Rosh Hashanah (25th - 27th, 2022) Jewish
  Global Diversity Awareness Month US
  National Disability Awareness Month US

As a second generation American, I have always identified with the immigrant experience. About 7 million people immigrated from Germany over 150 years. My paternal grandparents were among them, arriving as children in the late 1800’s. Their families came for religious freedom and economic betterment. They settled in southeast Nebraska. My grandparents spoke German at home until the children started school, then they switched the family to English. Assimilation was expected. My aunts and uncles kept up a stream of German chatter around us cousins, tiny touchpoints of our heritage. These little phrases still circulate in my mind, and I wonder what some of them really meant. As usual, by the second generation the knowledge of our grandparents’ language was lost. Cultural features like holidays and customs disappeared into the homogenized white America of the 1960’s.

Growing up in the aftermath of WWII, I felt disconnected from my heritage. Images of Nazi Germany were reflected all around me, and that was all I could see of my grandparents’ country of origin. I felt no motivation to learn more. Best just to be an American teenager.

Chance events as an adult re-connected me with relatives in Germany. In 2016, my German cousin showed us around his country. On this amazing trip I fell in love with Germany. Medieval cathedrals tower over modern cities risen from the ashes of war. Phenomenal Berlin, with all the places I heard about as a child: Checkpoint Charlie, the American Sector, the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial. So many sausages! Train conductors who use a stopwatch to close the doors. The Autobahn, engineered for speed and safety. Intense and utter devotion to democracy, symbolized by the Reichstag, where the people physically look over the shoulders of their legislators. A society dedicated to fearless reckoning with its past and to facing its future. A place where planning is king, where everyone follows all the rules because that is best for all. A country where social safety nets prevent people from falling too low, while enjoying wealth, order and prosperity.

I have lost many illusions from my start as a white girl in Nebraska. I am still grateful for the strengths of my German heritage and those who gave them to me.

-Jennifer Leiser, MD

10 World Mental Health Day International

October 10th is a day that Indigenous people recognize as a day of pride and resilience. We live as descendants from our ancestors as we carry on their teachings and language. Indigenous people have been caretakers of their land for generations prior to being “discovered”. Our ancestral caretakers have a rich history of stories, songs, and ceremonies that make each tribal nation unique. This day is a painful reminder of the cultural protectors we lost to being “discovered” with the attempted genocide of Indigenous people for centuries to come. We acknowledge the dark history of colonization through the spoken and unspoken truth that are taught in history books.

Indigenous People’s day signifies the progression of a new generation of caretakers and protectors who will be the leaders of their generation. It’s a day to proudly display traditional attire and language to show the world that the goal of colonialism was unsuccessful. The path to healing is not easy and the recognition of Indigenous People’s Day is a step to elevate the voice of a people that was once silenced. Until equity is achieved for Indigenous people, the movement will continue to advocate for increased representation and responsibility. On October 11, take some time to learn about Indigenous people and how they have shaped the past, present, and future. Happy Indigenous People’s Day.

- Aaron Bia, MD (Diné)

31 - Nov 2

Día de los Muertos
(Day of the Dead)
By Kitzia Casasola

On the Day of the Dead, we remember our ancestors and we keep them alive by telling their stories. Día de los Muertos is a pre-Hispanic Indigenous tradition and celebration that can be traced back more than 3,000 years. Unfortunately, despite being born in Mexico and growing up in a Spanish-speaking household, day of the dead was not something I celebrated growing up.

My family immigrated to the United Sates when I was 5 years old and, like many other first-generation immigrant families, we worked hard to integrate ourselves into our new country, learn English and assimilate ourselves into the American way of life. In our eagerness to fit in, I think we overlooked the importance of finding ways to remain connected to our homeland.

The longer we were here, the farther we drifted from many of our Mexican traditions, eg. in October, we celebrated Halloween, but never Día de los Muertos. But, after graduating High School, I returned to Mexico for the first time since leaving it, and began reacquainting myself with my heritage through food, music, and travel. That October, while attending The Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, I volunteered to help create an altar that would be displayed on campus.

I had never built an altar before. I was unfamiliar with the symbolism surrounding the decorations. I had never eaten Pan de Muertos. And I had a hard time pronouncing ‘cempasúchil’. But as I spoke with classmates and project organizers, I learned that Día de los Muertos is a joyous holiday that honors the dead, teaches us to not fear death, and reminds us that despite our differences, we are all skeletons on the inside. The festivities that take place on November 1st and 2nd aim to bond us with our family by keeping us connected with the people who came before us.

It goes along with the notion that Mexican people believe you die three times: One is when your heart stops and your breath leaves your body. The second is when you are buried or cremated and have no physical presence on earth, and the third is when there is no one alive who knows your story.

As a young adult, I realized I didn’t have any stories to tell because I didn’t know hardly anything about my ancestors. Now, after 15 years, 7 trips to Mexico, countless conversations with family members, and 1 Ancestry membership, I find myself needing a bigger place to set up my altar. It’s overflowing with black and white pictures of people I never met, but whom I wouldn’t be here without. Every year I make a trip to my local Mexican Grocery Market and buy their favorite fruit, bread and drinks. I’m still searching and still learning, but I now have stories to tell, and people to tell them to- my kids.

I don’t visit Mexico as often as I wish I could, and I still live far away from my family, but Día de los Muertos continues to strengthen the familial bonds I share with my loved ones.

  American Indian / Native Alaskan Heritage Month US
  National Gratitude Month US

Veteran's Day holds a special place in my heart. First, I am grateful for the Veterans who came before me, especially my grandpa, dad, and uncles. I am also grateful for the soldiers I've served with, and family who supported me along the way.

This Veteran's Day marks the 15th anniversary of my National Guard unit returning to Utah after a year in Iraq. I was so excited to be home that I was bouncing up and down in my seat as I waited to get off the plane... then broke down in tears a few moments later as I thought of a few of my patients who did not get to return home.

I also take time on Veterans Day to remember that we all fight different battles. My brother, Marshall, joined the National Guard when he was 18 but soon developed health issues. This prevented him from deploying or remaining in the Guard and ultimately claimed his life.

My brother taught me many valuable lessons during his life. The most memorable was 16 years ago, as I prepared to deploy to Iraq. In a phone call home, I complained to Marshall that I felt like I was going to board a plane and fly into a big black hole. Marshall quipped, "I have it on rather good authority that the desert sands are more of a tan color". His joke reminded me to keep life in perspective and that while his battle was different, it was no less daunting.

In memory of my brother, I salute all of you for the battles you are fighting, both the apparent ones and those you fight privately, out of public view. In this regard, we are all veterans of our own conflicts and owe one another support and grace.

16 International Day of Tolerance International

A patient recently told me how much they were looking forward to our appointment. In fact, they said they were excited! For many of my patients, going to the doctor is a chore at best and a grave fear at worst. For this new transgender patient, however, our appointment to explore gender affirming hormones was the next step in a journey to look and feel the way they have always wanted.

I chose family medicine because it gives me an opportunity to build authentic and sustainable relationships with my patients. I am in my patients’ lives as a validating guide toward their best and healthiest self- I love that, for all my patients. Providing care for my trans patients is an opportunity to see and affirm their existence as their best self, and that is exciting!

For too long, there has been a paucity of healthcare providers who were able to provide gender affirming care. Many of our trans patients face a long list of obstacles in coming out and being validated in their identity. As a provider, supporting trans folks overcome even one of those obstacles is deeply meaningful to me. As a human, I see no other choice

-- Family Medicine adjunct assistant professor Noah Zucker, MD

25 Native American Hertitage Day US
1 World AIDS Day International
3 International Day of Persons with Disabilities International
10 Human Rights Day International
18 - 26

When I was invited to write about Chanukkah, I was so verklempt I could just plotz. As a kid, it felt like a sort of hidden, bonus holiday: everyone got to eat candy canes and sing Christmas carols, but only the Chosen People could light candles in a fancy stand, gamble with chocolate coins, and celebrate with 8 nights of presents. Hanukkah has gained a lot of traction in the past 100 years since the immigration of millions of European Jews to America. But in reality it is accepted as only a minor holiday, marking a military victory of Jewish rebels against a larger Syrian army. Given that the holiday generally coincides seasonally with Christmas, it has always seemed to me like the Jewish "answer" to Christmas and winter holidays.

The Chanukka Choliday (pronounced with extra phlegm) is celebrated by numerous symbolic rituals, notably the duration of 8 nights (to mark the 8 nights it took for new, consecrated oil to arrive in the holy Temple to keep the Eternal Light aflame -- a light that persisted without apparently enough fuel). Foods are fried in oil, and young children are taught to play gambling games. It's customary to greet one another with a vigorous smack on the backside while loudly shouting "Hanukkah Hirschl sends his regards!" When I was younger I remember Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" and watching the Rugrat's Hanukkah Special; more evidence that there's been an ever-increasing feeling of needing to "respond" to the Christmas season by making Hanukkah a bigger deal. In fact, it's just another Jewish holiday summarized by "they tried to kills us; we survived. Let's eat!"

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, for the sake of EDI, I thought I would spill the tea on what Hanukka is really about, and the odd, almost corporate importance imposed on it. But at the same time, I've never been one to look a gift jelly-donut in the mouth. That would take some real chutzpah.

- Jordan Knox, MD, CAQSM
Family Medicine Assistant Professor

25 Christmas International
26 - Jan 1 Kwanzaa US