Laura Herrera Gomez, a second-year Geisel School of Medicine student and co-leader of the medical school’s Latino Medical Students Association (LMSA) chapter, has been named chief financial officer-elect (CFO) of the organization’s Northeast regional board. A two-year position, the CFO is responsible for managing the chapter’s budget.
"I’m really excited about this because not only am I going to be involved in this amazing organization and get to network with medical students from other schools, but I’ll also learn the financial aspects of how a non-profit is run, which is something I can see myself doing in the future," Herrera Gomez says.
Since its inception, Geisel’s chapter has been the strongest in the region, continually sending the most representatives to annual conferences. This year’s contingent to the conference, hosted by the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, also included Dartmouth undergraduates interested in attending medical school. Active mentoring took place during the five-hour drive to Syracuse—undergraduates sought tips from first-year medical students about applying to medical school; first-year students asked second-year students about board exams; and the second-years talked with third- and fourth-year students about the clinical years and applying to residency programs.
Though Dartmouth’s Latino (Latinx) community is small, Herrera Gomez credits the opportunity to meet people with similar interests as one reason for the high conference attendance. “It’s a heartwarming experience to be surrounded by doctors with similar backgrounds as mine, serving underrepresented communities, and mentoring and helping students reach their goals,” she says.
One mentor at the conference made an impression on Herrera Gomez—a family physician who emigrated from Guatemala who welcomes undergraduate students into his practice every week.
"The students he’s mentored have gone on to medical school year after year—he also stays in touch with them and attends their graduation," she says. "This is very powerful because people like me have had to cross many boundaries to get to where I am, and it’s nice to see someone helping in that way—I was touched by his story and decided I wanted to be that kind of mentor." Herrera Gomez was born in Colombia and emigrated to the U.S. with her family. "Although Geisel is supportive and wonderful in advocating for diversity, we wouldn’t get that experience without going to LMSA conferences."
Herrera Gomez, who helped start a mini-medical school workshop for local underserved high school students interested in practicing medicine, encourages anyone who is interested in serving underrepresented communities to get involved with the organization.
"There are people on the LMSA board, and in our chapter, who are of non-Hispanic heritage," she says. "More than 18 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic and we need people who are interested in, and want to learn about, serving this community.
"School is demanding and stressful making it easy to forget about extracurricular activities, but in the grand scheme of life these activities are important—they pave the way for students from different backgrounds to come here and become physicians who accurately represent the patient population they will serve."