Dr. Portocarrero Lecture (669900)-243

COMP alumnus Donald Portocarrero (center), DO ’08, returned to campus Feb. 16, 2016 to talk about gastroenterology with COMP students. (Mirza Hasanefendic, WesternU)

The Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) will hold its national and regional conferences at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California for the first time. WesternU’s LMSA chapter has ramped up its outreach activities and national leadership in recent years, culminating in this honor.

The 11th annual national and 32nd west regional LMSA conference will take place April 7-10, 2016 at WesternU, 309 E. Second St., Pomona, Calif. 91766. Click here to register for the conference. Click here to learn more about becoming a conference sponsor.

LMSA is composed of five regions, and its national conference rotates through the regions each year.

“This is the first time we will have our National Conference hosted at a school of osteopathic medicine. We were very excited that WesternU was up for the challenge of hosting a national conference,” said LMSA National President Abner Antonio Murray, an MD and PhD student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “WesternU’s LMSA chapter continues to provide medical students who embrace leadership at all levels of the organization. This year we have three students from WesternU on our National Board of Directors.”

Fourth-year College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) student Daniel Diaz, Southern CEO for the West Region LMSA, has helped increase LMSA’s outreach efforts and student involvement since his first year at COMP.

“We saw a need for minority applicants, especially with the population in Pomona,” Diaz said. “We started reaching out to increase minority and underrepresented students.”

Diaz started the inaugural Mentorship Day in 2013, which brought undergraduates to campus to learn more about osteopathic medical school. Second-year COMP student Miguel Amezcua first heard about LMSA as a Cal State Fullerton undergraduate when he attended WesternU LMSA’s Mentorship Day in 2013.

“LMSA and its members became my mentors,” Amezcua said. “I had an interest in medicine but no solid plan on how to approach getting into medical school. They provided guidance, shadowing and volunteering opportunities, personal statement advice and mock interviews.  Most important, they provided encouragement. They let me know how important it is to have Latino health professionals. Now, at every mentorship day we host, I try to provide the same advice and encouragement to undergraduates who were in the same position that I was.”

The conference will bring together undergraduates, medical students and many residents and physicians active in LMSA. Diaz has taken the lead in scheduling conference activities, handling logistics, and recruiting speakers and attendees.

“This year we’re expecting a record number for both the regional and national conferences, with 1,000 total medical and undergraduate students, all either underrepresented minorities or students who want to work in underserved areas,” Diaz said. “When I first started (at COMP), I didn’t realize there was such a big need for minority physicians. The discrepancies in health equality for Latinos is as large today as it has ever been. LMSA is dedicated to making these changes happen. As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve been able to see the passion so many people have in making this a reality.”

The LMSA conference will provide financial aid workshops, assistance in completing applications for medical school, and networking opportunities with alumni and current medical students. COMP alumnus Donald J. Portocarrero, DO ’08, will return to campus to participate in the conference.

“Diversity in medicine helps everyone. There was a study that actually covers this topic, and more have been published since that further support this statement,” Portocarrero said. “Students that attend school with a diverse student body are better equipped to deal with a diverse patient population. LMSA is not just for Latinos interested in medicine, it’s for everyone interested in working with those communities of lower socio-economic status that need us the most, and hence expand the medical opportunities for everyone.

“LMSA and its conferences and workshops influenced me since very early on in my academic path in medicine, from learning how to become a competitive applicant and taking the MCAT, to study skills and time management, to being exposed to different specialties through mentorship and networking opportunities,” he added. “LMSA conferences have it all. I am very happy to hear that the regional and national conferences are coming to my alma mater, and look forward to being a part of it and seeing the future of medicine at WesternU.”