UTMB’s School of Medicine was recently represented at the 14th Annual Conference of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) held in Washington, DC, in March.

The NHMA is a non-profit association representing 36,000 licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States whose mission is to improve the health of Hispanics and other underserved populations through cultural competent health care delivery. The conference brings together Hispanic physicians, medical students, nurses, policymakers and health care industry representatives from across the nation to share what they have experienced and learned while working to eliminate health disparities faced by Hispanics.

Left to right: Priscila Salgado, honored guest speaker U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, Dr. Norma Perez and Diana Prieto.

Dr. Norma A. Perez, director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence Medical Careers Diversity Program in the School of Medicine, attended the conference along with two first-year medical students, Priscila Salgado and Diana Prieto. 

Perez stressed the importance of the conference and the need to educate society about the unique health care needs of the Hispanic population.

"Hispanic leaders must be prepared to know how to meet the needs of the fastest growing and largest ethnic population in the U.S.,” said Perez.

The conference focused on how to best educate Hispanic patients about health concerns ranging from diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Bringing it home

Thanks to their experiences at the conference,  Salgado and Prieto are in the process of starting a chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) at UTMB. The LMSA is a non-profit organization founded to represent, support, educate and unify Latino medical students.

“This conference was important to us, because as first-year medical students, we gained knowledge about the most important health issues facing the Hispanic communities in our country,” said Salgado. “We were honored to be the only representatives from a medical school in the University of Texas System.”

“Being part of a national organization affords more opportunities to obtain scholarships, attend conferences and network with other medical students and doctors, and represent the state of Texas at the national level,” said Prieto.

A UTMB chapter of LMSA will also give students the benefit of a broader understanding of the health concerns faced by the Latino population.

“Students will have the opportunity to become more familiar with health issues affecting Latinos, not only in Texas, but also nationwide,” said Salgado, who hopes this familiarity will lead to new strategies for better serving the Latino community. “We also want to help students build relationships with physicians and mentors that will create more opportunities for student participation in residency programs across the nation.”