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
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.
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.
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“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.
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“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.
“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