Latino Surgical Society’s 1st Surgical Symposium on Latino Health – Reflections on a Diverse Conference

11 Jul 2019

By Danilea M. Carmona Matos

Recently, I attended the Latino Surgical Society’s (LSS) 1st Surgical Symposium on Latino Health held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was delighted with the idea of  going back home to an event led by a group of surgeons whom I have previously had the honor of meeting throughout different conferences (e.g. Latino Medical Student Association, Academic Surgical Congress). 

Group Picture at LSS Surgical Symposium on Latino Health

The symposium was very well-rounded with surgeons from  mainland US and Puerto Rico sharing important knowledge on topics such as career development, surgical advancements, health policy and leadership in surgery.

Career development tips and tricks surely are important for aspiring medical students, residents and young faculty as they try to navigate their road to success. What made the LSS’s take on this so special?

“Latino students have the highest dropout rate from health care professions mainly due to economic constraints.” ~Dr. R. Rodríguez Mercado

It was important to hear stories that really hit home, having prominent surgeons discuss their road to success and how to use adversity as a learning opportunity. Furthermore, we discussed ideas to improve the representation of minorities in health care through multilevel mentorship, scholarship, and coalitions. In addition, several programs were highlighted for physician development at all levels: from medical students up to faculty.

Surgical advancements were shared by surgeons in various fields, such as cardiovascular, trauma and transplantation. The panelists made superb presentations outlining how surgical

advancements have progressed – from the clinic to the battlefield. Each of them demonstrating that, when surgeons face a challenge, their spirit to “fix” things has only made these opportunities to develop new surgical techniques and equipment to address patient care.

Health policy was eloquently addressed by surgeons and scientists who work to translate what we  see in our community’s health via clinical data, scientific investigation or even times of disaster into areas for learning and improvement. Most importantly, it was impactful to see how these individuals advocated for health policy changes within their institutions, health coverage companies or even their state to address the disparity between health policy and reality.

“I was able to accomplish this dream (PR Transplant Center) as a product of social conscience and commitment to healthcare through teamwork” ~Dr. E. Santiago Delpín

Last but not least, leadership in surgery was not only exemplified by the many individual successes that surgeon panelists had but also through their commitment to healthcare improvement. It was refreshing to learn how surgeons’ work can impact their communities, countries and even global health.

In short, I look forward to  future meetings and learning more about the amazing work these surgeons are carrying out! Dr Minerva Romero Arenas (@minervies), Dr Joseph Fernández Moure (@JFernandezMDMS), Dr Gezzer Ortega (@DrGezzer), and Dr Joseph López (@drjoelopez) have become part of a list of surgeon role models, not only due to their success as academic surgeons, but also due to their commitment to address surgical disparities in the latino population and to promote the professional development of underrepresented minorities in medicine.

Danilea M. Carmona Matos is third year medical student and current Howard Hughes Medical Institute Medical Research Fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Surgery. Her current work has looked into targeted therapies for neuroendocrine cancer treatments. Danilea is pursuing her medical degree at San Juan Bautista School of Medicine in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She has a Master’s in Medical Sciences from Ponce Health Sciences University in Ponce, Puerto Rico and a bachelor’s in Science in Biology with a minor in Italian Language and Culture from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

Danilea is a former teacher and aspires to be a physician scientist working translational cancer research, surgical education and mentorship. She has been actively involved at San Juan Bautista School of Medicine as a AAMC OSR, curriculum committee representative and served as president of the Latino Medical Association chapter in her school. In addition, she is an active member in various interest groups, pre-med student mentorship and community outreach activities. You can find her on twitter at @danileacm.


Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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