While planning the event, Heredia recognized the importance of having current medical students, including students like her who may have struggled during their pre-medical years or who are underrepresented in medicine, available to interact with participants
throughout the day. She approached leaders of the Larner chapters of the Latino Medical Student Association and the Student National Medical Association and other peers for help, recruiting 11 colleagues to act as “mentors” for UPP attendees. Class of 2025 medical students Sofia Toro Alvarez, Louis Briones, Olivia Darko, Isabel Martinez Daniel, Tom Notcovich, Elizabeth O’Neill, Virginia Ramirez, and Paige Song, and Class of 2024’s Exume, Lapides, and Obongo served as mentors for the event.
In addition to helping guide participants through the mystery case and simulation sessions, mentors also dined with them at a lunch and attended an end-of-day mixer during which participants could ask them more about their journeys into medicine, the
process of applying to medical school, and advice for staying motivated during pre-med coursework.
Obongo said that being a part of the project was a no-brainer. “I am a strong supporter of programs and initiatives that inspire those particularly from underrepresented communities to consider entering the medical field,” she said, adding,
“I also recall some reports I have come across predicting doctor shortages in primary care. The UPP program just made perfect sense to me.”
Darko felt similarly and, like Heredia, was familiar with how difficult it is for medical student hopefuls to navigate the exhausting and, often, overwhelming journey to medical school, especially when close friends, family, and mentors are unable to
guide them. “I really didn't have a lot of guidance when trying to pursue a career in medicine – I very much felt like I was alone,” she said. "It’s so important to me to offer advice and support to folks who want to pursue
medicine – I love any chance that I can get!” Darko added.
Alrai said that the support and interactions with the current medical students was an integral part of the program’s success in his mind. “Having them involved made it much easier for me to ask questions and learn about their personal journeys,”
From Onuoha’s perspective, she said that the impact of representation cannot be overstated. “Seeing all these Black women who are intelligent, educated, and successful medical students meant so much to me,” she said. “Sometimes
when you only know one person, it can seem like luck. But when you see more people that look like you in the field, it makes you feel more confident about yourself. Now I know I have more role models to look up to,” Onuoha said, adding that
after the program she told her mother, “Mom, these are my role models. I want to be like them.”