Spring 2015
Class Act

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Roberto Lopez and Jessica Albanese

New student association

Roberto Lopez and Jessica Albanese are inaugural members of the Latino Medical Student Association, a new student interest group with the goal of outreach to Latino students considering applying to medical school. Photo by Anne McMillin, APR.

Reaching out to Latino applicants

Story by Anne Pershing

The Latino Medical Student Association, or LMSA, a new student interest group at the School of Medicine, went right to work this academic year, hosting a medical student question-and-answer panel aimed at high school and undergraduate students considering applying to medical school.

Nearly 40 northern Nevada students, some with parents in tow, attended the association’s panel discussion held at the University of Nevada, Reno in November 2014.

The discussion had current medical students answering questions on topics including applying to medical school, what courses to take in preparation for applying, steps to take to be a competitive applicant, when to take the MCAT, whom to ask for a letter of recommendation and all matters related to the medical school experience.

Any student considering applying to medical school was encouraged to attend the free information session.

Second-year medical students Jessica Albanese and Roberto A. Lopez and first-year student Emma Garcia sat on the panel. All three, who want to eventually practice medicine in Nevada, said they thrive on helping undergraduates become physicians.

Lopez, who was born in Mexico, but grew up in Sparks and a University of Nevada, Reno graduate, said he discovered the association last spring when Wilfredo Torres, M.D. ’10, assistant professor in the school’s OB/GYN department, held a meeting to gauge student interest in starting a chapter.

“Each medical student at the panel was a firm believer in the power of mentorship and an avid advocate for the type of student we wanted to help: the socially disadvantaged, underserved or students in need of guidance to the path of medicine,” Lopez said.

“That’s when I knew that the Latino Medical Student Association was the right group for me. Without teachers and counselors who helped me along my path, I would not be where I am today. It is my obligation to help others and this gives me the opportunity to work with a group of students who are as passionate as I am about helping others.”

Garcia, who grew up in Reno and is also a University graduate, agrees.

“As a political science major, I learned so much about citizen advocacy which helped me in regard to medical school. I joined this association when I saw that first meeting announcement,” she said.

“One of our biggest goals is student outreach to low income and first generation students to help get them into medical school. After our first meeting, we focused on setting up our major event, the undergrad panel. This was special to me because when I first came to the university, there weren’t many organizations geared to helping minority students in professional programs,” Garcia said.

Albanese, who grew up in Las Vegas, is an Arizona State University graduate and Latino Medical Student Association vice president. She shares her fellow students’ enthusiasm about the chapter, which plans on hosting future events similar to the panel discussion.

“We’d like to organize a mock multiple-mini interview session so that students who are applying can practice their interviewing skills, expand our outreach to local high schools and host interactive sessions to teach students about the many career opportunities in medicine,” she said, adding that the goal is to make LMSA a thriving club geared to increasing the enrollment of qualified, underrepresented minorities in medical school to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population.