UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Patricia Silveyra, assistant professor of pediatrics and a research associate in the Penn State College of Medicine, was recognized today (April 18) with the University’s “All In at Penn State” achievement award. Silveyra is one of two recipients of the honor, designed to recognize a student, faculty or staff member for embodying the University’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
“The All In award is an important step for the University to recognize individuals for their contributions to Penn State's diversity, equity and inclusion mission,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity. “Both of these award winners have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments, leadership and innovation in working to create an inclusive climate, transforming education and advancing diverse communities.”
Whitehurst announced the “All In at Penn State: An Achievement Award for Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion” recipients during the All In conference, held today at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. Also honored was Candice Crutchfield, an undergraduate with a double major in criminology and communication arts and sciences and a Schreyer Honors Scholar. Recipients received a $1,500 stipend.
The award was created to honor a member of the University community who helps Penn State achieve its mission of being a leader in research, learning and engagement by embracing diversity and affecting the world in positive and enduring ways. The recipients go above and beyond what is required of them, making contributions to Penn State’s diversity, equity and inclusion mission by demonstrating exceptional accomplishment, leadership or innovation. Nearly 50 nominations were submitted.
Silveyra’s contributions range from being actively involved in the Dean’s Council on Diversity to leading hands-on programs that serve young people in Pennsylvania. Silveyra served as leader of the Dean’s Council on Diversity from 2012 to 2015 and interim director for Diversity and Inclusion in Education in 2015-16.
“As a first generation immigrant, a woman in science, a Latina, the first in my family to get an advanced degree and as someone whose first language is not English, I can relate to many of the issues and circumstances faced by our students and patients,” Silveyra said. “I find it really easy to connect with them when they need help or support, and when they want to do something for themselves or to help others. I love to empower them and support their initiatives, and I love seeing them achieve their goals. I also think it is my responsibility to serve as a role model for those who are from similar backgrounds, and for the younger generations.”
In her nomination of Silveyra, Rose Baron, inclusive program coordinator at Penn State Hershey, wrote that Silveyra “is a role model for students and a person who really cares about the community.”
“For her professional work in science, her leadership in women’s issues, her community service and outreach, and her involvement with local organizations, I believe Patricia is truly deserving of the ‘All In’ achievement award.”
As a postdoctoral student, Silveyra joined multiple community organizations, including Estamos Unidos de Pennsylvania, which aims to promote health and education in the local Hispanic community, the Latino Hispanic Professional Association, and Graduate Women in Science (GWIS), which promotes science interest in girls and increase opportunities for women in science. She has organized and participated in multiple outreach activities in local schools.
In 2012, she received the GWIS Adele Grant Lewis Fellowship as the highest ranking applicant nationwide. In 2013-16, she was a Penn State BIRCWH (Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women’s Health) scholar, and joined the Penn State faculty.
Silveyra’s laboratory investigates genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of asthma, and she is an advocate of healthy habits in the community. Silveyra has advised several student groups, and she has participated in outreach activities at local schools. She is a member and leader of several committees at Penn State, including the Faculty Senate. She is also the faculty advisor for the Latino Medical Student Association, and she hosts and trains numerous students in her laboratory.
One of Silveyra’s initiatives has been starting a medical interpreter program that matches bilingual College of Medicine students with physicians treating patients who don’t speak English.
Silveyra, herself a medical interpreter, worked with the Health Federation of Philadelphia to create a program at Penn State Hershey that allows bilingual medical students to become certified. With support from two grants, those interpreters have been helping in the field since 2015. So far, close to 80 medical students who speak more than 15 languages have been trained as interpreters to serve the Hershey, Lebanon and Harrisburg communities.
Now, Silveyra is working to implement a system at Penn State Hershey that allows for in-house interpreters when needed, rather than turning to an outside contractor. Scheduled to launch this spring, the website will allow nurses to find and schedule the trained student interpreters. The program not only provides interpreters, but also helps the medical students develop their own skills listening and having empathy for patients.
Another initiative Silveyra has spearheaded is creating a mentoring program that matches undergraduates in the area — some whose parents who don’t speak English — with role models, to help them see what they can achieve and understand that they don’t have to change who they are to do it.
“We try to break the stereotypes, and tell them, ‘If I can do it, you can do it,’” Silveyra said.
Silveyra said she has always found it rewarding to help others.
“I’m lucky to come from a very service-oriented family,” she said. “Even though I didn’t have much growing up in South America, I learned that one can provide time, knowledge, skills or just listen to others and make a difference.”
“All In at Penn State” is an ongoing initiative aimed at spotlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion, and encouraging members of the University community to take an active role in promoting diversity, have respectful conversations about it and create welcoming communities.