Identity and Heritage: Dr. Ricardo Altahif

September 29, 2023
Ricky Altahif

Personal identity is a core product of all our intentions. For Ricardo Altahif, OTD, OTR, CHT, this is no different. Coming from a large Hispanic community in the Rio Grande Valley, what Altahif found at Baylor University was a community that sees and celebrates his identity alongside him.

Altahif is a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Occupational Therapy within the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. While he joined the Department in January 2023, his Baylor experiences extend back to his undergraduate days (BSED ’12). When deciding to return to Baylor more than a decade later, Altahif was motivated most by the Department of Occupational Therapy’s hybrid learning approach.

“I was really impressed with the design of the program. It allows us to embrace and include students from underrepresented and marginalized groups from across the country,” Altahif said.

Altahif is proud of how diverse the program is because that is not often seen within the occupational therapy profession.

“If you compare our program to the national average of occupational therapists, Baylor’s Occupational Therapy program is doing an amazing job of recruiting, retaining, and including underrepresented groups and minorities,” Altahif said.

Altahif notes this diversity isn’t forced for the sake of modernity, but rather for the sake of purpose. This is especially important in the United States, where Spanish is the second-most spoken language, but only about 4% of occupational therapists are Hispanic or Latino.

“Studies show that for minority patients, if a healthcare provider shares the same race or background as their patient, the patient will develop a better therapeutic relationship with their provider and receive improved healthcare,” Altahif said. “I want to be that provider who can speak Spanish with their patients and show them that I understand their culture and upbringing. This will allow patients to better connect with me, which will help bridge that gap for equity so I will be able to provide better care.”

Altahif facilitates a learning environment that preaches accommodating and assisting communities in need. He hopes his students will serve their communities as both medical professionals and as leaders.

“I’m from the Rio Grande Valley, and there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of healthcare in the RGV, especially with access to both professionals and technology,” Altahif said. “We have several students from the Rio Grande Valley enrolled in our department’s hybrid programs, which allows them to continue to live and serve in the Valley while working towards their Doctorate in Occupational Therapy.”

When celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Altahif loves how passionate the Baylor and Robbins College communities are in honoring different cultures.

“I’ve noticed amongst the different organizations I've worked in that there is a big difference between diversity and inclusion,” Altahif said. “And to me, I think diversity doesn't mean much without inclusion. So, one thing that I really enjoyed about Baylor is they intentionally work towards inclusion. And as a health professional, I think the more you're able to reflect on your own culture, the more you can practice cultural humility, and really value and celebrate people from other cultures as well.”