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The Latino Medical Student Association held its 11th annual National Conference and 32nd annual West Regional Conference at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California April 7-10, 2016.

By Rodney Tanaka, Senior Communications Writer

Physicians must go beyond treating disease. They must endeavor to understand a patient’s family dynamics and strive to help them succeed.

The Latino Medical Student Association held its 11th annual National Conference and 32nd annual West Regional Conference at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California April 7-10, 2016. WesternU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific is the first osteopathic medical school to host the LMSA National Conference.


Amazing opening session. #LMSA #LMSANC #diversity

A photo posted by LMSA National (@lmsa_national) on


The conference brought about 300 students, vendors and workshop organizers Friday and more than 600 people Saturday to the WesternU campus. The conference included guest speakers, workshops, networking activities and an exhibitor fair.

One goal of the conference was to broaden the notion of what medicine can do to improve health, because medicine and health are different things, said fourth-year UC San Francisco medical student Martin Escandon, co-director of LMSA’s West region.


“Talk to students here and ask them what they’re doing. Not only are we learning about biology, pathology and medicine, we’re also doing work in the community — interpreting medical visits, coordinating free health clinics, and teaching medical Spanish to their peers,” Escandon said. “You will also hear another set of stories. Despite all this progress, we’ve got a lot of work to do still. You’ll hear students talk about what it’s like to be a student of color at a medical school. It’s difficult. You’ll hear students talking about some family members who have health insurance and some who don’t because of what side of the border they were born on.

“I think it’s important to remember why we’re here, the work we can do, and what this pipeline we’re trying to create is aimed at, and that is having medicine represent the communities we come from in every way possible,” he added. “Thank you for being part of this pipeline.”

Today’s minority ethnic groups will account for half of the under-18 population by 2018, according to Census Bureau projections. Some 350 languages are spoken in the U.S., including 190 spoken in Los Angeles, each representing another culture, said Fernando S. Mendoza, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean of Minority Advising and Programs at Stanford University School of Medicine. Mendoza served as the April 8 conference keynote speaker.


“When you go into any residency program in your future, you’re going to be in a situation where there is great diversity. So what does it mean when minorities become the majority?” Mendoza said. “It means I’ve got to start thinking, whether I’m Latino or not Latino, what are the social and cultural differences for those kids I’m going to be seeing? What are the environmental differences? Do we see every patient as equal, and how do we make them successful? When demographics change, it challenges us to think about that.”

For example, if we’re going to fight obesity, we have to understand what families think about obesity, Mendoza said.

“It’s not that they’re trying to hurt their child, but that’s how Latino cultures love kids — they give them food,” he said. “If we don’t understand that loving is what they’re trying to do, then we never get to the issue of how we prevent it. If we don’t understand they have to eat fast food because they’re working two jobs because they only get $7 an hour, that’s not going to help them. If we don’t understand there’s no safe place for them to play, that’s not going to help.”

An Urban Institute study determined the cost to the United States associated with childhood poverty totals about $500 billion per year, Mendoza said.



“We lose it through an increase in health problems, lack of productivity later on, and incarceration,” he said. “We’re trying to prevent people from being sick, but we have to understand it’s not just the biology of sickness, it’s the idea of the social determinants of that sickness. And that requires us to make sure people are successful. I’ve been around long enough that I’ve been able to see kids in preschool eventually grow up to be doctors. Why can’t that happen more? I’m great with the idea of keeping people healthy, but I think we also have to think about inspiring kids, inspiring our community to succeed.”The importance of helping patients succeed in addition to improving their health resonated with first-year Rutgers New Jersey Medical School student Valerie O’Besso, who is involved in her school’s LMSA chapter.

“There’s always the problem of diversity in the medical field in general,” she said. “We want our association to get those connections here to try to promote LMSA, not only to Hispanics, but to everyone. We want to see what other schools are doing to promote that.”

Check out a slideshow from Friday’s conference



LMSA Southwest Co-director Eric Molina, an MD student at Baylor College of Medicine and a PhD student at Rice University, said this is the third national LMSA conference he has attended. He also organized the ninth annual national conference two years ago.
“It’s meant for us to come together in a way we can share ideas and initiatives and remind each other why we chose this path in the first place,” he said. “It’s easy to forget why we wanted to be doctors when we’re in medical school. Sharing our ideas and experiences and learning from each other as we continue on in our careers is the most important thing.”