It was 8 a.m. on a clear Saturday morning with hardly a medical student in sight. I walked briskly past Taubman Library, momentarily thinking of the endocrinology final I would take there tomorrow. But for now, I was excited to attend the LMSA (Latino Medical Student Association) regional conference – an annual conference being hosted by Michigan Medical School this year.
As I walked into the conference room, I was greeted by the resounding voice of President Mark Schlissel as he delivered the welcome address at the conference. This speech was followed by Dr. Justin Dimick and Dean Steve Gay, who also spoke to the 150 medical and pre-medical students who were gathered around carefully listening to what each of them had to say.
LANAMA (Latin American Native American Medical Association) and its board were then introduced. Their mission was clear: to bring together the Latino Michigan medical students and celebrate the deep cultural heritage of Latin America with the rest of our peers. This was the student organization in charge of coordinating the LMSA regional conference, and also the organization I would have the pleasure of serving for the upcoming year. In this moment, seeing the diversity of interest and the excitement that was shared among faculty, medical and pre-medical students, I could see LANAMA’s potential to stimulate academic interest and connect students, not only in the medical school but also on the greater Michigan campus.
In its effort to involve the medical school community, the conference hosted a mock MMI interview workshop for the pre-medical students who were attending this conference. This activity was designed in conjunction with the Medical School Admissions team to simulate the rigors and challenges that are characteristic of the application process. Besides the MMI interview, other workshops included research posters by current medical students, as well as a panel where medical students related their own experiences in terms of both deciding and applying to medical school.
Facilitating these conference activities with the LANAMA board, I had moments of introspection that I had not experienced before. For example, during the mock MMI interviews, I realized I was no longer a timid interviewee, but rather a confident interviewer. This marked a moment that “the tables had turned” in this aspect of my life, and that I could not forget the various mentors who had enabled me to overcome challenges in the admissions process.
As LANAMA president for 2017 and a current non-traditional medical student at Michigan, I am personally invested in bringing mentorship opportunities to the Latin American and Native American community at Michigan Medical School. So far, we have hosted numerous faculty-student gatherings in which Latino and Native American physicians have not only presented their journey to a fulfilling medical career, but also have offered to guide students with research, volunteer projects and various other opportunities best tailored for their personal interests. Expanding upon this, it is my belief that mentorship can transcend the traditional faculty-student relationship, and can be simply demonstrated through a supportive student community. I am fortunate to have found this at the University of Michigan Medical School, especially thorough LANAMA, and I hope to encourage and continue to foster la familia that I have found here.