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Latino Medical Student Association Members Share Advice for Future Physicians

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In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, three Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) members share their unique pathways to medicine and describe how the LMSA has supported their journeys.

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The Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing in the United States. According to numbers from the 2020 census, Hispanic people accounted for 51% of the country’s growth and now total approximately 18% of the population. And yet, less than 6% of all U.S. physicians identify as Hispanic or Latino.

One national organization that is focused on increasing the number of Latino medical students entering and completing medical school is the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). The LMSA is committed to diversifying the health professional workforce at all levels and improving health outcomes for Hispanic/Latino populations in the United States. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the AAMC chatted with three LMSA members to learn about their unique pathways to medicine and how the LMSA has supported their journey. 


 

Kevin Cabrera

Kevin Cabrera, MS
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2023

Midwestern University, Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM)

1) Is there anything unique about your pathway into medicine?
Like most students, I wanted to go to medical school immediately after completing my undergraduate degree. That was not my reality. At times, it felt like my culture was a hindrance because I didn’t have the resources some of my friends did. It took me six years and two application cycles to matriculate into medical school after graduating from college. I took the MCAT® three times and had a terrible score every time. But in that time, I had the privilege of earning my MS in Global Medicine from USC where I was exposed to barriers to health care delivery while proving I could succeed in medical level education. I worked as a medical scribe, volunteered in different parts of the world, explored new cultures, and grew in several relationships with those around me. While six years post-college seemed like a long time to wait to begin medical school, it was rich with experiences that ultimately will make me a better physician and person.

2) What has your experience been like as an LMSA member?
I was the founder and president of the LMSA chapter at Midwestern University-AZCOM. Starting LMSA at my university was one of the most incredible experiences of medical school so far. By being in LMSA, I have met and been encouraged by so many other Latino medical students — ones who look and talk like me. To meet so many inspirational Latino students who are looking to make change within the Hispanic community fills me with joy and hope.

3) What advice would you give to current aspiring medical students?
If this is your dream, DO NOT STOP. Being Latino should be celebrated in medicine. With the growing Latino population in the United States, we are assets and are very much needed in health care. Also, it is absolutely crucial to find mentorship from Latino mentors who know the struggle. If you need help along the way, don’t hesitate to ask!

 

Bianca Ulloa

Bianca Ulloa
MD-PhD Candidate

Medical Scientist Training Program
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

1) What has your experience been like as an LMSA member?
LMSA helped me form many friendships and a community on my campus through events we have planned together and across the country through its conferences. LMSA conferences provide a powerful networking tool for premedical and medical students alike.

2) What advice would you give to current aspiring medical students?
My main advice is to find, build, and foster relationships with supportive and knowledgeable mentors. Establishing connections may take some trial and error, but be brave and reach out to professors, college counselors, physicians, or scientists in your desired field. Attending conferences and seminars is also a great way to network! When reaching out to new connections via email, remember that first impressions are important — be concise and respectful, describe why you find their work/life interesting, and share your ask (i.e., career advice, shadowing opportunity, work). After an in-person meeting, always remember to send out thank you messages.

3) Is there anything else you’d like to share related to the LMSA?
The National LMSA Conference will be hosted on March 3-6, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! The conference is titled, Cincuenta Años de Comunidad (Fifty Years of Community): Fostering Service, Health Equity, and Leadership. The conference will feature keynote speakers, networking opportunities, leadership training, hands-on clinical skills workshops, medical school tours, and professional development sessions for both premedical and medical students. Registration is expected to open the first week of October.


 

Karina Diaz

Karina Diaz, PhD
MD-PhD Candidate
University of Washington (UW) Medical Scientist Training Program
UW School of Medicine

1) Is there anything unique about your path to medicine?
My path is unique because I chose to follow a dual degree. I am an MD-PhD student, which means I am doing both graduate school and medical school at the same time. I chose this path because, during undergrad, I realized I couldn’t imagine my life without research or patient care.

2) What has your experience been like as an LMSA member?

LMSA has helped me when I was struggling with my classes, grades, tests, and overall isolation in medical school. Medical school is hard, but I have always found a helping hand within LMSA. We help take care of each other, provide advice, find mentors, and so much more to make sure we succeed; we need more people of color in medicine to continue to improve patient care.

The biggest resource I use now are my connections. If I want to learn more about a residency program at a school, all I have to do is reach out to a few people and I can be in contact with students, residents, and even faculty at that school. LMSA is a large network of people with similar goals including mentorship.

3) What advice would you give to current aspiring medical students?
Be confident in who you are and what your goals are in life. So many questions for admissions to medical school relate to this. Talk about where you came from and how that path has shaped you. Make sure the story you tell emphasizes your goals in medicine.
 

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