• GSM

August STEM Showcase - Erica Latorre Interview

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

A: I was born and raised in North Idaho which instilled in me a love of the outdoors and being active. I spend a lot of my time running, weight lifting, swimming and hiking. I’m a lover of art and science both of which have helped me with my studies in medicine. I went to college at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT where I earned a Bachelors and a Masters. I then spend a year out of school to take a breather and work all the while exploring the beautiful land called Southern California!

Q: What is the earliest recollection you have of wanting to pursue medicine and when was this decision solidified?

A: I think I was interested in medicine at a young age, but didn’t understand that it was actually “medicine”. I enjoyed learning about what my mother did as a nurse very young and I was always reading material that was medically related. I even liked reading egyptian mummification processes, which is adjacent to medicine in that culture.

The pathway to become a doctor didn’t 100% solidify until I got to college however. I knew in high school I wanted to go the pre-med path and desired to be a physician, but after going through the classes in college and talking to a pre-med advisor, then I truly grasped what it took and the sacrifices I would have to make. I think up until that point I was going with the motions of what I was interested in topic wise, not exactly the definitive career of medicine. So in short, I was interested in science and helping others and college shaped those desires into a definitive career path.

Q: What's one thing you wish you could tell your younger self? What advice do you have for those looking to follow in your footsteps?

A: I guess I would tell my younger self to spend more time shadowing professions. It may sound odd, but I think if I had looked into other professions outside of science and medicine I may have picked a different career. I never thought there was anything else out there for me besides medicine. I would have liked to look into architecture or something in land management or maybe collegiate sports management.

Now I don’t want that to sound as if I am not fully enjoying what I am doing because I am, but sometimes I look back and think, “Hmm, I never really even considered anything else.” and it makes me wonder about what I would have done with all that never explored experiences. Would I have still picked medicine? I don’t know, but the main point is that college is a time to explore and although they tell you that, many pre-meds are so focused on what they SHOULD be doing that they don’t take the time to consider what they COULD be doing. Nobody wants that wondering feeling on their mind and sometimes I do wonder.

Q: What challenges have you had to face throughout your journey and how has overcoming these difficulties allowed you to find your greater purpose?

A: I think so far some of my largest challenges have been adapting to cultures of competition, both externally and internally. Medical school is an extremely competitive atmosphere unlike any other where everyone used to be the smartest person in the room and now that may not be the case. It’s definitely an ego check. Then there is the actual learning of scholastic content and that is a steep mountain of knowledge that many students have never climbed before nor as fast. It’s difficult and advisors tend to tell you this in undergrad, but it’s hard to believe or even understand until you are waist deep in it.

I think that having to find ways to survive and excel in this atmosphere has forced me to reevaluate what is truly important to me. I used to have this “when I get there” ideal. Well I’m here and it’s time to make decisions that will affect the rest of my life and although that is scary, it’s also reliving once you come to terms with what you truly want. When you are pushed to the brink of stress (this occurs many times in medical school) you tend to find out quickly what you desire most and what makes you happiest. I used to want to be a big researcher and surgeon and all this other “high achieving” stuff. Medical school has shown me my truth, that I want to go back home and be around my community and take care of them. I want a house, a family, and good work-life flow and some specialties make that harder to achieve. Not impossible, just more difficult.

Q: What is the best part about your field of study?

A: Yay! On to the positives! Ha Ha. The best part for me was learning anatomy in my first two years and in my second two years I believe that it will be getting to interact with so many different people as I start to see patients. If you love science and are fascinated by things that make most people's skin crawl or stomach churn then you will indeed thrive in medicine. You learn something new everyday that is fascinating beyond all belief and the satisfaction that comes from deeply understanding these topics is what medical school is all about.

Q: How has social media allowed you to be an advocate? What is the main message that you try to convey to your social media audience?

A: Social media, particularly Instagram and Twitter for me, have allowed me to connect with people all over the world. I have my own specific niche and knowledge base that I want to share with anyone who needs it. I remember when I was a pre-med and I was studying for my classes and my MCAT and just dying to know anything about how to get into medical school, I would turn to Instagram to research. It sounds odd, but googling always came up with opposing opinions and I could never find a definite answer to my questions. On social media you can really see a person and parts of their life and the passion and experience they have and you get to connect and learn at a very fast and entertaining rate.

I knew after I got accepted to medical school that I wanted to start my own platform, so I could return the favor to all those students who would now be like me (pre-meds) and need that guidance. I was a first generation going to medical school so I didn’t have any parents or relatives to help me through the process. Student experiences and their honest opinions of schools and programs and what helped them succeed was most valuable to my success.

My main message I want to give to my social media audience is simply information. I want to help give them all the information on any topic that I can, whether that be admissions, study material, mental health strategies, or more specifically to me, information on military HPSP scholarships. This last part is what I believe makes my page unique. I am a woman in medicine, in the military, and a minority. I have views and experiences in all these areas and want to help others like me achieve their goals and get past these hurdles in an easier way then I had to go about it.

Q: Has mentorship played a role in your journey? If so, how?

A: I kind of already answered this a little above, but just to add, mentorship is the biggest part of getting into medicine in my opinion. I wouldn’t even be interested if it wasn’t for the doctors who allowed me to shadow them early on. I was lucky that my mentors were so honest with me about a life in medicine. This full spectrum of information both from them and my experiences with them allowed me to make an educated and heartfelt decision about if I wanted to pursue this path for my life.

I also made sure that I had multiple mentors too however. I learned good and bad things from each mentor. People aren’t perfect and I was able to pick out the qualities that inspired me to pursue this path and also to see some of the other not so awesome qualities that I try to stay away from as a health professional. To make this clear, I am referring to qualities that are often seen in burnout and just with not so healthy health care cultures. This vast array of mentorship experiences has in my opinion allowed me to be a more conscientious and thoughtful healthcare provider with my patients. I have been able to develop my empathy skills through this.

Q: What has been your biggest achievement to date?

A: I have been able to complete my didactic years in medical school (years 1 & 2) and recently found out I passed my USMLE and COMLEX board exams!!!

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