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Rising College senior Alejandra Bahena is the founder and president of the annual National Pre-Health Conference that supports students interested in healthcare careers. (Photo from Alejandra Bahena)

Penn students are co-hosting the second annual National Pre-Health Conference to support students interested in health care careers.

The conference will take place virtually from Aug. 4 to 6 with the theme of "Unity in Healthcare." The conference will feature health care professionals from a variety of medical backgrounds, including guest speakers Associate Dean of Admissions at the Perelman School of Medicine Neha Vapiwala and celebrity dentist Bill Dorfman.

The conference will consist of informational events about various health care careers, medical school applications, and managing stress in a health care career. Some of the events include a case-study session in which attendees will work with medical students to understand the process of approaching specific illnesses, a mindfulness workshop, and a research expo featuring the projects of selected students from universities across the country.

Rising College senior Alejandra Bahena, the founder and president of the conference, noted the importance of having access to various perspectives in health care. As a first generation, low-income student, she said that students of disadvantaged backgrounds face difficulties in pursuing health care careers.

"Students who come from underrepresented backgrounds really face a lot of challenges, not only just navigating the career path but figuring out if it’s right for them," she said. "That’s why we offer this perspective of having a lot of different career paths shown to students so that they can learn a little bit about each of them."

Bahena and Alexia Childress, a rising senior at Arizona State University, co-founded the pre-med conference in 2020 to address the obstacles the COVID-19 pandemic created for students interested in pre-health careers. 

“The sheer breadth of resources is something that is going to be really useful to students who attend the conference,” rising College junior and Digital Design Co-Director for the conference Lauren Davidson said.

Bahena said she envisioned the conference being a way that pre-health students across the nation could access the resources that had helped her.

"I realized that, of course I wasn’t the only one dealing with these issues, and across the nation it was a real problem that, not just pre-health students but basically anyone who comes from this type of low-income background was facing," Bahena said. "So I started thinking about my career as a pre-health student and all the resources that I had, and I wondered if there [are] other students out there who might not have this type of support."