The Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) welcomed some 460 students to its annual pre-medical conference this Saturday.
Recognizing the growing health care needs of the country’s minority populations, the conference aimed to attract and provide support for medical professionals who can meet these needs.
“Our goal is to encourage minority students or students from underserved backgrounds to apply to medical school or to any kind of health-related field,” said SUMMA Conference coordinator Luis Gutierrez.
A third-year M.D. candidate, Gutierrez said that the conference serves as a venue where minority pre-med students can network with each other and with medical school recruiters.
This year’s event opened with a welcome address from Medical School Dean Philip Pizzo and pediatrics Prof. Fernando Mendoza, who also serves as the associate dean of Minority Affairs and Programs.
The conference featured a number of keynote faculty speakers from the School of Medicine, as well as a series of workshops ranging from MCAT preparation and the medical school application process to successful grant writing and civic activism.
According to Gutierrez, one of the most memorable segments of the conference was Faces of the Community, a student speaker series that offered a personal look at the challenging path to a medical career.
“We have three Stanford medical students who tell very personal stories about their roads towards medicine . . . That’s always one of the things that the students who attend the conference remember the most because these are stories that could be very similar to their own,” Gutierrez said.
Human biology major Ulysses Rosas ’10 agreed that Faces of the Community offers a unique perspective on the medical school experience, saying that it reminded him of a similar program during New Student Orientation.
Rosas further noted that the event left attendees with “the sense that medical students come from all backgrounds — that there’s no specific profile.”
On a more pragmatic level, the conference grants attendees the opportunity to mix and mingle with representatives from different medical schools.
“Getting to talk to recruiters from different schools, I think, is another huge highlight,” Gutierrez said. “It’s just a huge networking process.”
Rosas, who plans to apply to medical school this coming cycle, quickly added that the chance to talk to recruiters was another major motivation for his participation in SUMMA. He stated that the networking aspect of the conference allows attendees to learn about what a particular institution offers and how well it meets the needs of its students.
“I would say a good 25 percent of the recruiters I talked to were friends who went on to med school and came back to be reps for this conference,” Rosas said.
Though Rosas attributes this reunion to mere coincidence, it may signal a surge in success for the conference. When SUMMA began 19 years ago, it was a completely student-run program. The alliance has since evolved into a collaboration between various entities in the School of Medicine.
“Over the years, it’s actually become a giant effort between the medical students and the faculty and staff at the Center of Excellence in Diversity,” Gutierrez said.
Pre-med students from both Stanford and other California colleges attended.