Students Attend 2019 Latino Medical Student Association Policy Summit

Pictured from L to R: Aviva Aguilar, M2; Carmen Javier, M3; Anibelky Almanzar, M2; Sarah Rader, M2; and Yahira Diaz-Cardona, M2

I was recently one of five board members of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) who traveled to Washington D.C., from Oct. 4-6 to advocate and learn more about health policy at the 2019 LMSA Policy Summit.

Our weekend activities included congressmen/women visits at Capitol Hill, where we had the opportunity to advocate for the conditions at the Mexican border, the separation of families, the current physician shortage, along with the increase in residency spots.

We visited the offices of Senators Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Jeff Merkley (Oregon) and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Katherine Clark (Massachusetts), Kevin McCarthy (California) and Trey Hollingsworth (Indiana). 

We had the opportunity to meet medical students from all over the country who are also passionate about advocating for the Latino community.

We also listened to amazing speakers who shared their stories, insights and advice for the group of future physicians.

  • Cristina Gonzalez spoke about making a difference for patients through medical education research.
  • John Paul Sanchez talked about the importance of publications in academic medicine.
  • Leo Lopez III, a primary care physician from Yale School of Medicine, talked about the importance of storytelling in advocacy. He is also a journalist and filmmaker currently advocating for human rights at the Mexican border through his upcoming documentary titled “La Jaula de Oro” (The Golden Cage), a film that LMSA hopes to bring to NEOMED.

Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes, director of policy for Advocates for Youth, and Lanre Falusi, M.D., a pediatrician and director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute, were two more inspiring speakers.

My fellow students shared the following reflections:

“I was moved by a vivacious 60-year-old family medicine physician who is passionate about equitable health care for Central American refugees seeking asylum. She documents scars from trauma to help their immigration lawyers build their cases. I was not previously aware that scar documentation was a route that a family medicine physician could take to help immigrants.” — Sarah Rader, a second-year College of Medicine student

“This conference was inspiring and energizing to attend. I found gems of wisdom from the speakers and relevance to the work I hope to continue doing as a physician in my local community.” — Aviva Aguilar, a second-year College of Medicine student

“This conference helped me reach a deeper perspective on health care policy and its major role in nearly every aspect of our lives, whether we participate as the patient or provider. A theme from this conference that resonated with me is that policy can limit the extent of care we can offer to our patients, no matter the medical degree we may have or the setting in which we practice. As health care professionals, I believe we have a moral obligation to be active participants of legislative changes that affect the health of our communities.” — Carmen Javier, a third-year College of Medicine student

As for myself, this conference motivated me even more to be an advocate for those without the tools to advocate for themselves. I learned that there are residency programs in Washington, D.C. and across the country with a focus on health policy and I definitely want to pursue a career in health policy regardless of the specialty I go into.

LMSA would like to thank the NEOMED’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, especially Andre Burton, for supporting our trip to Washington, D.C.

— Anibelky Almanzar, a second-year College of Medicine student, contributed this reflection

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