National Hispanic Heritage Month: Q&A with Dr. Alexandra Kejner

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed Sept. 15 – Oct. 15. In the following Q&A, Alexandra Kejner, MD, assistant professor of head and neck surgical oncology and microvascular reconstruction, discusses what the month means to her and what she wants others to know about being Hispanic.

Q: How do you identify? What is your national/cultural background?

A: My mother likes to call our family “ciudadanos del mundo” because our family has moved around so much. My mother is Bolivian and my father Argentinean. (My family from Argentina is Jewish — a lot of people get wide-eyed when they see the Austrian last name.) I was born in the United States. I consider myself a first-generation Latino American.

Q: What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage month mean to you? How do you celebrate or observe?

A: I love “fun facts” and to share with others some of the myriad contributions that have come from Latin America – the color TV, the ballpoint pen, the artificial heart, Captcha codes, balloon expandable stents, among many others. And then of course, my most favorite, the functional neck dissection. This is an operation I do at least once a week originally invented by Dr. Osvaldo Suarez who went to the same medical school as my uncle in my family’s hometown of Córdoba, Argentina. There are so many beautiful aspects of Latinx/Hispanic culture that have melded into our lives – music, food, language, science, architecture, and of course the most important, chocolate.

Q: What would you want people to know or understand about being Hispanic or Latinx?

A: Hispanic/Latinx people are like an estofado, or as it is said in Argentina, a carbonada (a stew) – a blend of different colors, languages, religions, backgrounds – not a monolith. Learning more about this aspect of the history and future of the United States of America enriches us all.