By Minerva Romero Arenas, MD, MPH, and J.P. Sanchez, MD, MPH
We joined the Tour for Diversity in Medicine to inspire students, particularly those from underrepresented minority and disadvantaged backgrounds, to pursue careers in medicine. We expected them to have questions about career choices, the juggling of career and personal life, how to prepare for lifelong learning that is medicine. Halfway through the tour, we have learned just as much from students as we thought our Tour would impart to them.
The Tour for Diversity in Medicine has been an unique opportunity, not only in “paying it back,” but also in understanding the awareness and interest of our youth in health professional careers. The high school and college students we’ve encountered are eager, inquisitive, and thirsty for new knowledge and opportunities. They often state they have little clarity concerning a medical or dental career, yet their questions reflect a deeper understanding than they realize. They frequently asked questions like these:
- “How do you balance life and work?”
- “Can you have a successful relationship in medical school?”
- “What is the benefit of a dual degree and how does it benefit you?”
- “How or why did you choose a specialty?”
They were also quick to note the high financial burden of pursuing medicine and competitiveness of the field.
However, more striking are the stories of the T4D attendees who have shared their rich journey and identity. Many of the students we met in El Paso, Laredo, and Corpus Christi had a bi-national identity, a rich border culture, and familial experiences living in Mexico and the United States. Their interest in border health reminded us of unique regional issues that are significant from a health disparity standpoint. It is also a valuable perspective that is often missing from our medical school cohorts.
One pre-med Latino student said, “I was volunteering with EMS. I was the only person who spoke Spanish. We were called to care for a young girl who was hit by a car. I translated for her and the EMS workers. I didn’t know I could play that role and I didn’t realize how much this could affect someone’s care.”
The personal stories that we share with these students are not only to educate, but to remind them that they too can be agents of change, that their unique perspective is needed in our field, that a brush with medicine can truly be a call to action. Unlike the student whose passion for medicine is unshakable, the challenge lies in emboldening the rest to pursue their dreams.
—JP Sanchez, MD, MPH, is a mentor with the Tour for Diversity in Medicine. He received his MPH from the Yale School of Medicine, his MD from Einstein, and completed the Residency Program in Emergency Medicine at Montefiore/Jacobi Medical Centers. Beyond his clinical role as an emergency medicine physician, he has worked towards promoting a supportive climate for the LGBT community at Einstein and in addressing LGBT health disparities locally and nationally. He serves as Principal Investigator of Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians (BNGAP).
—Minerva Romero Arenas, MD, MPH is a mentor with the Tour for Diversity in Medicine. She is a General Surgery Resident with Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, and is currently completing a research year at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She received her MD and her MPH from University of Arizona.