Three representatives of NEOMED’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association participated in panels at the Summit, held at the University of Akron October 10.
Aviva Aguilar, a first-year College of Medicine student in the CSU Partnership for Urban Health and vice president of LMSA; Ernesto Solorzano, a Ph.D. student in the College of Graduate Studies and a member of the medical Spanish committee; and Christine Rizkala, a first-year student in the College of Medicine and a member of the medical Spanish committee, participated in panels at the Summit and reflected on the event.
What was the goal of the Ohio Latino Health Summit?
Aviva Aguilar: The goal of the Latino Health Summit was to gather to bring attention to current issues on Latino Health in Ohio. The Summit was open to the community.
What role did each of you play?
AA: I was on a panel about the medical and health care workforce of the future. The purpose of this panel was to advocate to support underrepresented students pursuing STEM fields. I shared my personal story of my journey to medical school and my mission to serve under-served populations as a doctor. I spoke about some of the obstacles I faced along the way as well as the people and resources who helped me make it to this point.
Ernesto Solorzano: I was also on a panel about the medical and health care workforce of the future. I learned a lot from my fellow panelists that emphasized the need to support underserved populations going into STEM fields. I shared my personal story of how I traveled from my home country to pursue a career in STEM. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I spent a few months in a research lab to learn the skills necessary to pursue my dream. The panel helped me to reflect upon my purpose as a doctoral student.
Christine Rizkala: I was on a panel about the certificate of advanced Spanish for the health professions and first responders at UA. I was a student of the program during my undergraduate career at UA, and I shared my experience being a part of the certificate, especially the community outreach events that I was involved with through the program. I volunteered with Hartville Migrant Ministries, St. Bernard’s Church, AxessPointe Community Health Centers, and Faithful Servants Care Centers.
Here at NEOMED, I recently helped the first Spanish-speaking patient at the SOAR Student-Run Free Clinic.
As a student, how was it eye-opening to participate?
AA: It was empowering to share my journey with audience members. After the panel, a few people in the audience asked me about how to mentor underrepresented undergraduate students who are pre-med. I was able to share my perspective and vision of how to support underrepresented students pursuing a career in medicine. I felt extremely proud to be part of the Latino Medical Student Association here at NEOMED. Being a panelist inspired many ideas for how we can connect with local undergraduates and support those coming after us. Overall, my experience at the Latino Health Summit allowed me to reflect on the support I’ve had towards making it to medical school and what I hope to contribute moving forward.
CR: It was an eye-opening experience to participate in the Latino Health Summit because it showed how much my voice as a medical student matters. Although I am only a first-year medical student, other people still listened and cared what I had to say about the need to have medical Spanish classes available to meet the rising population of Latinos in Ohio.
Did participating give you ideas for how LMSA at NEOMED can be helpful to the community?
CR: It showed how the Latino Medical Student Association can be the advocates for better health care for Latinos in Northeast Ohio, and how we can be spearheads of new programs and outreach organizations to address Latino health needs. We speak about the need for quality physician-patient relationships, but we take for granted how language plays into that relationship.
AA: Staff at UA would like to collaborate with LMSA here at NEOMED to have us mentor their undergraduates pursuing STEM fields. This was exciting to discuss because there is a huge need for mentorship of undergraduates pursuing a career in STEM, and I can already see how LMSA at NEOMED can really connect locally to empower students.