Ruth Manzanares '18
Last Saturday, I was extremely fortunate to go to the Latino Medical Student Association 43rd Annual Northeast Conference at Dartmouth. This conference is open to high school students interested in medicine, undergraduate pre-med students, and medical students. Some of the schools that form part of the Northeast chapters are Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, and NYU, among other medical schools. (The Northeast chapter of LMSA has yet to include undergraduates.) The conference was a day long event made up of several key speakers and workshops that not only explored navigating the medical field as an underrepresented minority, but also the implications of being a Latinx individual in the medical world. Such topics included public health, undocumented Latinx that do not have insurance, politics in the medical world, and what is being done to try and change it to accommodate to the increasing number of Latinx in America. It was an extremely validating to experience and hear all the different success stories of young Latinx students who, despite all their trials and tribulations, were able to make it to medical school in the end.
Most gratifying though was seeing the genuine passion these individuals had in what they were learning in school. One girl, Gigi who was also the co-chair of the event, spoke so passionately about her specialization on the urinary system for individuals and how she wished to be both the physician and the surgeon for her patients. Another one, Diana, spoke about her love for medicine, but also her love for her Latinx people at home, and how she combined those two passions to pursue a general practice as a physician.
However, with all the “good,” inevitably came the bad. Aside from speaking from the success stories, I also heard the struggles that come with being a Latinx individual pursuing medicine. What I heard most was the struggle of being a Latinx women in a predominately white male world. Despite the increasing number of Latinx students entering the field there is still a lack of Latinx representation. With it, also came the conversation of the diverse backgrounds Latinx students come from and how that yields barriers that other classmates don’t have to encounter, such as financial stability and moral support from family. It is difficult to pursue a career that has so many limitations, but it makes being successful despite it all even more fulfilling. Additionally, when you form strong connections, like the ones these students have formed, it makes it a tad bit easier because you know you are not alone and that it is possible to succeed and achieve one’s dream.
Saturday was a day where I have never felt more proud to be a Latina pursuing medicine. These people are so amazing and so supportive. They were once in my shoes, so they know what I am feeling as a first-generation, low-income Latinx undergraduate student, and they know how important it is to share our story. Through these types of conferences, I know we truly will “fortalecer nuestras raíces” and flourish in the field.