2018 SNMA & LMSA Banquet: A Celebration of Excellence & Diversity in Medicine


MOLA’s message to medical graduates: Be who you are in medicine as much as in life


March 17, 2018

LMSA – SNMA 2018 Graduating Medical Student Banquet

Celebrating Excellence and Diversity in Medicine

The Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) of the University of Illinois at Chicago celebrated the Class of 2018 will be recognized for their achievements as students, their excellence as upcoming graduates, and their promise in medicine, on March 17th downtown.

Many LMSA student leaders are also leaders and volunteers for MOLA, and our organizations are proud to partner and collaborate. Highlighted among the evening’s celebrations, Dr. Pilar Ortega, MOLA President, was invited by LMSA. and Dr. Michael McGee was invited by SNMA to give the keynote remarks prior to the recognition and awards of the student graduates.

Please read on for an excerpt from Dr. Ortega’s comments or watch the video link below:

Be grateful and proud for being who you are. We are here celebrating diversity, our collective and individual cultural heritage, the things that make us unique and where we come from. And unlike what you may have heard or understood before, I am here to tell you that there is no reason for these things to be separate from your career or academic success or identity.

For those of you interested in research—have you thought about how your heritage, your culture, plays a role in your research? If not, why not? If we as minorities are not asking the questions about why our community’s disease burden is what it is, about why the vaccination rates, teen pregnancies, medication compliance are what they are — if we don’t ask those questions, then who will? Our non-minority colleagues, while many of them are well intentioned, may not even know what questions to ask.

People talk about the “minority tax” – the burden of being a minority in medicine – The higher up you go, the fewer of us there are – so the larger the burden for us higher up to provide mentorship and inspiration to those below. To do the research. To bring the evidence to our policy-makers. To offer to take on the Spanish-speaking patient in your practice because no other physician speaks Spanish. To explain to our colleagues why a Latino patient is using certain expressions to describe their distress. It’s not to be annoying. And it’s not called “total body dolor” (or other more offensive terms).

But this is not a burden; it is an incredible privilege. Now as soon-to-be MDs, this privilege now belongs to you.

You have skills that others don’t have – Let’s celebrate that! 

The celebration of what it is to be a Latina physician – this what MOLA is all about… 

It has been an incredible ride that has already exceeded all of our expectations, which is 100% volunteer based, adds not-insignificant hours to my work week and that of my board of directors – but you know what is the most common remark that I hear from my peers, volunteers, and my board?

“This is why I went in to medicine.”

There will no doubt be moments ahead when you will wonder what that reason was.

The wonderful thing about surrounding yourself with individuals in organizations like LMSA, SNMA, MOLA… is that it is a constant reminder as to why you went into medicine. You will find among us people who will truly support you for who you are.

Which brings me to maybe the most important thing of all – Your family and the people who love you.

Some people along your path to residency training and beyond will make you feel that the rest of your life gets “in the way” of reaching your academic and career goals. I suppose you can guess by now how I feel about that, and I want to tell you that It’s ok for life to not occur in a straight or predictable path. When you first embarked on the journey of becoming a doctor, you might have had a certain expectation or plan for how you were going to do things.

In fact, some of the best things in my own life and career have been the supposed “interruptions.”

Life is not an inconvenience to set aside while you train in Medicine. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy life, your families, your friends, and actually use who you are as a Latina, a minority, and as all the other things that define you as a person to make you a better doctor in the process.

I urge you tonight to thank your Abuelita, your Mami, your Papi, your significant other, your children or future children.

The truth is that you don’t have to be continually visionary, happy, representative of your culture, powerful, professional, grateful, and a family-person all at the same time and at every single moment. Nobody expects that, and you shouldn’t expect that from yourself either. Just be who you are, don’t forget who you are.

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