Bienestar looks to build community among Latine pre-med students


Photo courtesy of Cristian Carpio

Bienestar held its first-ever meeting this week, with executive board members and general members alike.

Sterling Kossuth Ortiz, Senior Staffer

Newly founded club Bienestar is seeking to build connections among Latine pre-med students through service opportunities.

The mission of Bienestar — which means “wellness” in Spanish — is to promote physical, mental, emotional and socioeconomic health in Latine communities. 

Weinberg junior and Bienestar President Cristian Carpio said the idea for the organization came from realizing the lack of community among Latine pre-med students. That vision came into sharper focus after he participated in Northwestern Docs, a spring break program that introduces students from underrepresented backgrounds to careers in medicine. 

“We saw more doctors of color than I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” Carpio said. “I thought, ‘why don’t we start something if it doesn’t already exist?’” 

Weinberg junior Nicole Constante, vice president of Bienestar, believes many Latine students would appreciate the service opportunities and community the club provides. The club’s format allows every member to be a leader: students can pitch projects they are passionate about and then form committees to complete the projects.

Last year, Constante was also co-president of Alianza, the Latine student alliance, and plans to use her knowledge to benefit Bienestar’s members.

“I know how to fight for the communities that I care about,” Constante said. “I know that (the club) can help members get started on their service projects and give them the resources to do what they want. I’m prepared to help them on every path of their journey.”

Weinberg junior and Bienestar Outreach and Engagement Director Kaylee Zilinger said she realized her love for service during a fellowship at the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative.

Zilinger found her way to Bienestar through mutual friends and felt her experiences working at ChicagoCHEC and growing up in Chicago’s historically Mexican American Little Village neighborhood could guide the club forward.

“(The fellowship) was the first time that I’ve worked in a cohort that was almost entirely students of color or with first-generation, lower-income students who all wanted to go into the medical field,” Zilinger said. “Having the experience to just take a summer and learn about how health inequities impact my community has made me very certain that I want to serve in a community that is similar to my own.”

A majority of Bienestar’s executive board attended Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago. While the members did not know each other at the time, their shared background helped them bond. When Carpio and other members first conceptualized Bienestar, their connection created a ready-made pool of students who would be interested in joining the club.

Carpio has more than a year before he walks the graduation stage, but he said he already has a vision for what Bienestar should be by then.

“I want there to be a tangible impact on our communities,” he said. “I see this as being self-sustaining, far beyond our time at Northwestern, because it’s gonna be a community of people that get together and have this shared vision of promoting wellness.”

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