Justin M. Camacho, MBA, MD Program Class of 2025
March 14, 2022
By Lisa Ryan
Prior to the recent 2022 Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) National Conference, which Drexel University College of Medicine sponsored and co-hosted, LMSA co-presidents Justin M. Camacho, MBA, MD Program Class of 2025, and Julianna Kinsolving, MS, MD Program Class of 2025, provided insight into their paths to becoming physicians and the organization.
College of Medicine (COM): Please tell me about yourself and what drew you to medical school.
Justin M. Camacho (JC): I am a first-generation LGBTQ Afro-Latino medical student. I was seven years old when I saw a child with a cleft lip for the first time. Later, in private, I asked my mother, "Why wasn't his smile like mine?" That moment is forever etched in my mind. As my mother tried to explain that cleft lip is the result of a developmental defect, I remember wanting to be the reason someone who was self-conscious about their cleft lip could smile again, fearlessly. Fast forward 11 years later, I found myself working at a plastic surgery office. I was invigorated by the reconstructive work we were doing, and by our patients’ excitement for their procedures. In this work, I saw a future of instilling hope in others, and that is when I knew that not only did I choose plastic surgery, but that plastic surgery had chosen me.
Julianna Kinsolving, MS, MD Program Class of 2025
Julianna Kinsolving (JK): My family is originally from Panama, and I was born and raised in Virginia. I received my bachelor's degree in public health with a concentration in clinical science, and a dance minor, from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Then I earned my master's degree through the Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) program. I pursued medical school because growing up in a low-income household with a single immigrant mom, we couldn't always afford to go to a doctor, and I saw many similar health disparities in families like mine. I believe that health care is a right, that everyone deserves equitable care no matter where they come from, and that patients, especially those from underserved communities, should be empowered in their own health care. I want to be part of the solution and defend the health of the communities that helped to get me where I am today. Outside of medical school, I love to dance, hike, read science fiction and knit.
COM: What made you want to join LMSA? How has LMSA helped shape your medical school experience?
JC: As a gay Afro-Latino male, I have struggled my whole life trying to find my place in society. With these identities, in conjunction with attending school in predominantly white institutions, I have struggled to find ways to get involved with the Latin community and give back to those who suffer from the same or similar societal pressures that I face day to day. One of LMSA’s core organizing principles was to unify all within the medical community who identify with Latin cultures, and as an individual who is a triple minority in society, I have no greater desire than to foster LMSA’s mission.
Having a position on the LMSA executive board has afforded me the means to make an impact not only at the College of Medicine, but also on a national scale. I hope my experience will serve to inspire those who feel out of place in the world. For me, serving on the LMSA E-Board is a step toward building bonds with the community which has shaped much of my upbringing. It has also given me the chance to serve the community and share my perspectives as a leader. Working with LMSA has given me opportunities to be an advocate for all of us who feel like we don't belong and provide an outlet to those in need. Being on the e-board also allows me to work alongside brilliant individuals to help reduce the disparities that exist in the field of medicine.
JK: I have been involved with LMSA since I was in the Drexel Pathway to Medical School program, and it has been the highlight of my medical school journey. I wanted to join LMSA because I am very passionate about advocating for the health of Latinx patients and bringing to light the unique barriers to care that we encounter. I also want to be a source of support and guidance for pre-med Latinx students so they can be the most prepared to succeed in medical school in the hope to raise the problematic shortage of Latinx physicians in the United States.
The most wonderful gift LMSA has given me is opportunities. It has allowed me to form phenomenal connections with other medical students, professors, physicians and mentors who are just as passionate as I am about serving our community, and who I would never have met otherwise. It has set me up for success both academically and professionally, provided volunteer and outreach experiences, and enabled me to be able to give back to Latinx patients early on in my medical training.
COM: What are your goals as an LMSA co-president?
JC: My goal prior to the conference was to help connect the LMSA chapters in Philadelphia, as we are usually very far removed from one another. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a strong Latinx medical student community, even when Latinx students continue to make up a very small percentage of the overall medical student population. I used the conference to connect with leaders from LMSA chapters both in the area and further away to discuss creating social and academic events that would benefit our chapters moving forward.
My next goal is to help our organization carry out its first health fair partnership with Centro Hispano in the West Reading, PA area. West Reading is home to an underserved community with a large Latinx population, and our e-board organizes health fairs to help educate and protect the health of underserved community members.
As a leader of LMSA and a member of Drexel’s Anti-racism Task Force, I am also dedicated to helping share information with students from communities historically underrepresented in medicine regarding what we need to do early on in our medical school careers to increase our representation in academic honors like the national Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. It is extremely important that we demystify the requirements necessary for students of color to enter top-level competitive specialties, with no surprises down the line in our educational careers.
JK: One of my main goals as a leader for LMSA is to have as many community service events as possible. I believe that it is a privilege to receive medical education, and we have a duty to serve others as much as we can early on in our careers. I want our chapter to be well known in the community and be seen as a source of trust and support by our Latinx patients. Another goal I have is to increase the amount of Latinx medical students at the College of Medicine, which we want to accomplish through outreach to colleges (like our new LMSA Plus chapter for Drexel undergraduates) and local high schools.
Additionally, we have a goal to increase collaborations between our organization and other Philadelphia LMSA chapters to create as big of a Latinx medical community as possible. I also want to maintain longitudinal connections between our student body and alumni. The long-term goals that I have are to write a success guide for Latinx medical students.
COM: What were you most looking forward to ahead of the LMSA conference?
JC: I most looked forward to connecting with various LMSA leaders and finding ways in which we could strengthen our organization while increasing engagement. I knew the conference would help our chapter to enhance our visibility and expand our regional reach.
JK: I was so excited about this year's LMSA conference because it was a big one! It was the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the organization. It was held at the beautiful Logan Hotel in Philadelphia, and our chapter was one of five hosts. I most looked forward to meeting so many new people, listening to fantastic speakers (like our own Dr. Rita Guevara and former associate dean of ODEI, Dr. Ana Nuñez), and all the amazing workshops on health equity, clinical skills, exploring careers in medicine, and so much more. It was incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by others who are as passionate about serving the Latinx community as I am. Oh, and the beautiful gala!
COM: What was your chapter's role in the conference when COM was one of the hosting institutions? What work did you do to help prepare for the conference?
JC: Our chapter’s role was to facilitate and help coordinate events and logistical outcomes for the conference. Members of our chapter served as representatives at the national level, which helped a great deal in ensuring the smooth flow of the conference and attendee matters. Our chapter’s main role was to support organizers’ needs at the national level while spreading awareness of the event and gaining traction in our community to increase and enhance visibility.
JK: As a host of this year's conference, we were busy! Our role consisted of many responsibilities, such as helping to book the conference space, arranging speakers, creating the daily agendas, collecting research presentations, and reaching out to as many attendees as possible. Many of us volunteered at the conference to help coordinate attendees and facilitate events. Our work consisted of registering as many College of Medicine and Drexel undergraduate students as possible, coordinating volunteers for the College of Medicine tour for prospective students, and promoting the conference on social media.
COM: Tell me more about the new undergraduate LMSA chapter and your work with them.
JC: The LMSA+ chapter serves as a subsidiary of our chapter to enhance support for undergraduate students who are interested in medicine and come from a Latinx background. The chapter serves to incentivize undergraduate students who are interested in medicine and provide an outlet where they can find valuable information and network with current medical students. Our future work with this chapter will be centered on events: being panelists and recruiting speakers to inspire and inform future physicians from underrepresented communities.
JK: We are so excited to have our newly established undergraduate chapter, LMSA+, running! This will be their first year on campus and our goal is to create longitudinal connections between Drexel's Latinx medical student and undergraduate communities. We recently attended the chapter’s first general body meeting, and they already have so many wonderful events planned for the rest of the year. Our planned upcoming work includes mentor/mentee pairings, physician panels, and workshops on navigating the medical school application process.
Ahead of the LMSA National conference, we collaborated with LMSA+ to recruit as many attendees and volunteers as possible. We worked together to promote the conference through our respective campus communities and on our social media accounts.
Going forward, we hope to collaborate with them to have events on succeeding in undergrad, applying to, and financing medical school, and creating connections with current medical students and physician mentors. Our goal is to create a supportive network to ensure success for pre-med Latinx students and make the medical school journey a little less scary.
COM: How will your time in LMSA help you as you move forward in your medical career?
JC: My time in LMSA has been and will continue to be influential to my growth and development as a physician. Having an opportunity to serve my community and show that we are present in every aspect of medicine helps enhance diversity at this and every other medical institution. With the Latinx community making up such a small percentage of the medical community, it is of utmost importance that we serve to strengthen one another and signal that we will no longer allow our ethnicity to be a determining factor for our entry into medicine. It is through this organization that I will gain the mentorship and leadership skill set critical to serving our community.
JK: As I move forward in my medical career, LMSA will be the reminder as to why I first decided to become a physician. As a first-generation Latina medical student, I had to conquer many obstacles and be the hardest worker to get to where I am today. Many other Latinx students face the same challenges, which can prevent them from becoming part of the diverse physician network that we so desperately need. LMSA will be the way that I can help these students overcome these hardships by guiding and preparing them for success before, during and after medical school so that we can increase the number of Latinx physicians in this country.
LMSA also allows me to serve my community in an equitable way that addresses the specific health care needs and barriers that Latinx populations face. Through service events like free health fairs, supply drives, and fundraisers, it gives me a way to make a difference in my community. Finally, LMSA will give me the skills to become an effective and competent leader. It will enable me to create positive change both amongst my campus community and as a future physician. LMSA will help to form the direction of my career and allow me to use my medical education to give back to my Latinx community that helped to shape me.