Reflections of an AAO-HNS Medical Student Travel Grant Recipient
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, it has affected our ability to gather for celebrations, concerts, festivals, and professional conferences.
Luis Miguel Rubio, MS4
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Class of 2022
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, it has affected our ability to gather for celebrations, concerts, festivals, and professional conferences. I was at the end of my second year in medical school when this period of isolation began. It was the beginning of my journey to join the specialty of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Although disappointed, I understood the need to convert the AAO-HNSF 2020 Annual Meeting & OTO Experience to a virtual meeting.
I am thankful that the Academy decided to offer the experience in person in 2021. It was even more meaningful to me as a fourth-year medical student in the throes of the residency application season. I was initially nervous with the prospect of presenting my research during the poster session. My anxiety was quickly dispelled once I spoke with a fellow presenter with a similar research topic.
The Annual Meeting is a fantastic experience for medical students interested in pursuing a career in otolaryngology. It affords the ability to network with residents, attendings, fellows, and other medical students who share your passion for the field. It is vital for students who are underrepresented in medicine to attend such large and important conferences in their specialty of choice. I personally was able to meet in person for the first time a mentor I had been meeting with virtually—Alexander Rivero, MD, from Kaiser Permanente Med Group - Northern California in Oakland, California.
I truly enjoyed meeting other underrepresented students from all over the country who shared my aspirations. We had a wonderful time attending the different sessions ranging from cutting-edge basic science research to discussions regarding the future of otolaryngology.
When visiting and exploring the OTO Experience, I was able to try on loupes for the first time. I took advantage of the opportunity to see all the new technology being developed for the field. The incorporation of new technology in surgeries and procedures has always been a big draw for me.
Outside of the conference, I was able to enjoy the wonderful food and culture that Los Angeles, California, has to offer. A few students and I visited Little Tokyo and had an amazing bowl of Ramen followed by delicious ice cream at Somi Somi, an ice cream shop that serves a special Korean dessert known as “Ah-Boong,” a fish-shaped waffle cone filled with your choice of filling and topped with soft serve.
I am thankful for the scholarship opportunity afforded to me by the Academy to attend the Annual Meeting & OTO Experience in Los Angeles. It was energizing to witness so many other underrepresented students in medicine, residents, and attendings taking on active roles in our field.