Pilar Mendez Student Profile
Passion for policy
Pilar Mendez’s early introduction to the healthcare system highlighted the disparities in access and care often faced by racial minorities.
As a child, Pilar Mendez often served as translator between her family members and healthcare providers. When she developed asthma—widespread in her South Bronx neighborhood and largely traceable to aspects of the built environment, like substandard housing—she was simply told to change her diet and get more playground time. After she moved to Hawaii, however, her asthma disappeared. Mendez’s early introduction to the healthcare system highlighted the disparities in access and care often faced by racial minorities.
“I became interested in ways the non-health aspects of disease, like housing, food, and language barriers, affect healthcare,” says Mendez, who earned a master of public health degree in Washington, DC, before choosing Loyola for its nationally ranked health law program. While in Washington, she was a health equity research fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.
Sitting in on policy meetings with stakeholders from across government and the community, “I saw how important it was that the people who will be affected the most have a seat at the table and a role in the decision-making process,” she says.
When the presidential administration changed, Mendez decided it was the right time to pursue a law degree “and help propel the conversation about health care as a human right.” But, she notes, good policymaking goes far beyond lawyering. “I want to effect change with health reform, but that comes from understanding issues from every perspective—patient, physician, and insurance provider,” she says.