Normally, the term los curanderos is used for witch doctors and faith healers; today at UCSB, Los Curanderos is a group of students aspiring to be healers of a more scientific nature.

Los Curanderos, a sub-committee of El Congreso, will be holding its 12th-annual “Diversifying Healthcare” conference Saturday, aimed at inspiring young minorities to join the healthcare field.

“We feel the need to open this professional field to minority students. The doctors in California don’t represent the population,” said Armeda Montano, the publicity assistant for Los Curanderos. “We want to open this profession to minority students so they can go back to their communities and work, especially in their own language.”

The conference has two purposes: to encourage high school students to go into a medical profession, and to educate UCSB and local community college students on how to get into this field, Los Curanderos Publicity Director Carlos O’Bryan said.

“This conference is needed to open the doors to other students who don’t think it is possible to go to college because of their background – to show them that we’re students of color and that if we can do it, they can do it as well,” said Sabina Laveaga, co-chair of Los Curanderos.

Members of Los Curanderos said holding the conference would draw minority students to both healthcare professions and to UCSB.

“When we go to a high school to outreach, we don’t just go to juniors and seniors, we outreach to anyone in the science classes. If they see UCSB and like it, they will be more likely to come here,” said Ivan Perez, co-chair of Los Curanderos.

Montano said the UCSB conference is more accommodating than others are because students will be bused in. “Other outreach programs wouldn’t reach many of these students because they are low income, and transportation can be a problem.”

Most of the people attending the conference will be minority high school and junior college students from Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and the Tri-County area.

“We have planned workshops where the students can go to learn about their area of interest, including pharmacy, student health and health law,” Montano said.

Two keynote speakers and a panel of UCLA medical students are included in the program.

The first keynote speaker will be Castulo de la Rocha. Rocha graduated from UCSB with a B.A. in political science. He has served on the board for several health agencies and organizations and is currently the chair of the Surgeon General Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative. He was chosen to speak at the conference because of his occupational history as well as his ability to influence an audience.

“We attended a conference at Cal State, Los Angeles, and he was a keynote speaker there. We were very enthusiastic about what he said there and what he does. He is really motivational,” O’Bryan said.

The second keynote speaker will be Richard Tafoya. Tafoya, who is the son of a farmer and grew up in the Oxnard/Ventura area, received his undergraduate degree in pharmacology from UCSB and is one of the founding members of Los Curanderos. He is now the medical director of three corporations and has a private pediatric practice in the Los Angeles area.

“[Tafoya] comes to our conference every year. He is an important factor in our group because he continues to help the Latino community. He is a really good inspirational speaker because the students can relate to him,” O’Bryan said.

One of the workshops, scheduled for mid-day, is being given by Elizabeth Guerrero. Guerrero is also a UCSB alumna and the assistant director of Outreach Programs at UCLA.

Joining Guerrero will be a panel of six medical students from UCLA. All members of the panel are UCLA freshmen and belong to the California Chicano/Latino Medical Student Association. The panel will answer questions from the audience on the lifestyle and challenges that a pre-med student faces.

The conference, which is free, will be paid for by donations and outreaching funds. “We’re paying it out of our funds, from donations and a grant,” O’Bryan said. Organizers said they are hoping for a turnout of 100 students or more.

The conference will be held in the MultiCultural Center from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.