Boricua Health Organization (BHO) was founded in the fall of 1972 by two first year medical students from Harvard Medical School, Jaime Rivera and Emilio Carrillo. Later they connected with Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias in New York City and formed a Steering Committee composed of representatives from several medical schools as well as physicians and healthcare workers with the purpose of promoting the admission and retention of Latinos into Medical Schools, as well as the improvement of the very poor health profile of the Latino Community. Their efforts arose out of the political climate established by the Civil Rights Movement and were strongly influenced by the grassroots organizations that were struggling against unemployment, lack of adequate housing and lack of access to policymaking structure. They joined the Young Lords in organizing sectors of the community around health care issues, with demands that included access to quality health care and education, along with recruitment of Latinos into these fields.
“A picture of the first announcement proclaiming the existence of BHO and stating the three basic principles of the organization. Jaime Rivera and I put this out sometime in late 1972 or early 1973. Jaime Rivera, Luis Garden-Acosta and I founded the organization at Harvard in the fall of 1972. The picture shows a profile of Edna Cabrera who (to the best of our knowledge) was the first mainland PR fully qualified student at Harvard Med.” -J Emilio Carillo, BHO Co-Founder
In the spring of 1973 the first Boricua Health Organization Conference was held in New York City. The first Constitution was drafted and adopted in 1978 and by the late 1970’s, BHO had established active chapters in major northeastern cities such as Boston, New Haven, New York, Newark and Philadelphia. The organization also sponsored yearly conventions which highlighted regional issues and which allowed dialogue between various chapters. BHO evolved into BLHO as more and more Latinos from different states and Latino backgrounds joined and strengthened the Organization. The organization changed its name to the National Boricua Latino Health Organization (NBLHO) in the late 1990’s. The “National” in the name was adopted in reference to the founders’ idea of forming a national student group.
Today, the National Boricua Latino Health Organization is composed of hundreds of medical students and residents. It represents Latino medical students from over 15 medical schools on the East coast. The NBLHO addresses the health needs of the Latino community, as well as creates an environment for academic and social support for Latino students in health professions. The vision of the founders was to create an organization that would serve as a voice for Latinos and as advocates for social and political change.
Beginning in 2009, NBLHO along with many other regional Latino health professions organizations joined together to form the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). NBLHO represents the Northeast branch of the national organization, and, as such, has officially changed its name to LMSA-Northeast to reflect the cohesion of this new national network.