Athree-day conference in Fort Worth aims to inspire the future of medicine and one of the goals is to encourage more diversity in the healthcare profession.
The conference is hosted by the Latino Medical Student Association and the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM). It was held at the HSC at Fort Worth campus.
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According to HSC, the U.S. Hispanic population is the fastest-growing demographic in the country but the percentage of Hispanic doctors isn’t rising anywhere close to the same rate. Rynn Ziller is the assistant dean of TCOM’s Medical Student Success.
“The number of people of color in practice do not match the population at all. Representation is important, so we want to make sure that representation is had,” Ziller said.
The first day of the three-day event Friday was for high school and undergraduate students considering a career in medicine. On Saturday, most attendees were currently medical students or pre-medical undergraduate students.
Said Maldonado is a second-year medical student at the University of Houston. He originally intended to pursue a career in pharmacy, but he wanted a career that was more closely tied to one-on-one patient care.
“My grandmother, unfortunately, had dementia. When we go see the neurologist, he didn’t speak Spanish,” Maldonado recalled. “My family speaks only Spanish, so me being 11 or 12 years old…I had to sit there and translate. Get to the nitty-gritty of a condition that you really, you don’t have a grasp on.”
The ability to break down barriers such as language is important, he added.
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“You get a lot more trust from your patients. They’re much more likely to be partners in their health just as much as we want them to be,” he told NBC 5 Saturday.
According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis, Latinos account for 7% of the overall physician and surgeon workforce and 9% of all healthcare practitioners and technicians. Meanwhile, almost one in five Americans, or 62.6 million, are Latino, according to the latest 2020 census numbers.
Luis Valdez will graduate from medical school in April. Valdez serves as co-director of the Latino Medical Student Association’s southwest chapter.
“We need to continue to help and try to diversify our medical field. We need to make sure we’re representative of the population we’re serving,” Valdez said.
Valdez said he believes one of the biggest benefits of conferences like the one hosted this weekend is the ability to allow students to network. The goal of their association is to provide resources to students.
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“I think economically speaking, you know…a lot of our students, they have had to work in the past to be able to afford getting prep books to prepare for exams to get into medical school,” he said. “The other part is those connections, a lot of them are not well connected. They don’t know the process of going and shadowing or going volunteering and how to put together a very rounded application.”