Spring 2017
Class Act

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Cindy Valverde, Roberto Lopez-Pacheco, Diana Padilla

Cindy Valverde, Roberto Lopez-Pacheco and Diana Padilla worked together to create the pre-med clinic with the goal of helping first-time applicants successfully get into medical school. Photo by James Rutter.

Students Provide Resources to Academically Underserved

By James Rutter

Cindy Valverde and Diana Padilla, both with the Class of 2020, play leading roles in the pre-med clinic, a student-created mentorship program designed to provide resources and guidance to lower-income and first-generation pre-med students.

Created in January 2017 by the Latino Student Medical Association (LMSA) under the leadership of Roberto Lopez-Pacheco, M.D. ’17, the goal is to help pre-med students improve their chances of successfully applying to UNR Med.

“By matching pre-med students with a medical student mentor, they can meet regularly for advice and resources,” Padilla said.

The program asks applicants to fill out an intake form and participate in a face-to-face resume review. Medical student mentors then set up a mentor-protocol guideline, which helps focus on the areas where the pre-med student needs the most improvement for their application.

Nicole Jacobs, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and head of UNR Med’s new Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said the LMSA program is valuable, because it is working to do more than simply telling these students about the opportunities afforded by medical school.

“What they have discovered is that just going to a high school in a poverty-stricken area, and telling the students how great medical school is, doesn’t really do much,” Jacobs said. “Instead of just advertising for the school, they’re actually creating a real effort to address the root causes of educational disparities.”

The LMSA’s pre-med clinic complements UNR Med’s post-baccalaureate program, the main source of guidance for students with similar backgrounds to Valverde and Padilla. Commonly referred to as the post-bac program, it offers a structured, one-year certificate program designed for any pre-med students who need GPA improvement, MCAT preparation, or additional upper division science coursework to be competitive for medical school admissions.

Both women took advantage of the post-bac program after struggling with their first medical school application.

“The post-bac program is really good, because it essentially gives a second chance to students like us, who do have the potential, but maybe stumbled during their first attempt,” Padilla said.

While both women see the post-bac program as a great option for students who did not get accepted to UNR Med on their first application, they hope the pre-med clinic will save potential students time by ensuring their applications are strong enough to be accepted the first time.

“What we experienced during that initial process, was a lack of guidance and resources,” said Valverde. “We’re trying to make it easier for them, by making sure that if they need help finding research opportunities, or MCAT preparation materials, or just writing an email, that someone is there who can help them, so that they are really ready to apply the first time.”

The two women have strong convictions that if given the proper guidance and access to resources, a student with potential can make it into medical school, regardless of what neighborhood they came from.

“You look at us, we both had our struggles. Without the guidance we received, we wouldn’t be here. I think what we are trying to do with the pre-med clinic is show that there are more of us out there; that these bright students are out there, and with a little bit of guidance, they would be here too,” Valverde said.


The pre-med clinic currently has a waiting list of pre-med students who need a mentor. UNR Med students interested in becoming pre-med clinic mentors should contact Cindy Valverde at cvalverde@med.unr.edu.