EVMS club celebrates cultures and community
The deep, fragrant scents of chiles, cinnamon, ginger and lemongrass filled Lester Hall on a Friday afternoon in February. The distinctive aromas represented more than a dozen traditional dishes prepared for this year’s Student National Medical Association Cultural Fair.
The event is held each year for the entire community to celebrate the cultures at EVMS. “We created this event last year because we have a diverse class and a diverse school,” says Dominic Adams, MD Class of 2021. “We wanted a way to showcase that, and we thought food was a great way to do it.”
While it is a food-focused event, the conversation is just as important to SNMA members. “The Cultural Fair provides an opportunity for discussion and education on race, ethnicity and culture,” says Faven Russom, MS (Medical Master’s ’19), MD Class of 2023. “These are all important subjects that allow us to become better students, physicians, colleagues and professionals.”
“Taking the time to understand the challenges faced by underrepresented populations can greatly improve the interactions and relationships we have with our patients and help us all become more culturally competent physicians.”
Faven Russom, MS (Medical Master’s ’19), MD Class of 2023
SNMA is a national organization that aims to support underrepresented minority medical students, but most SNMA events are open to students of all backgrounds. “We welcome everyone to hear and learn about the experiences of minority students, physicians and patients,” Ms. Russom says. “Taking the time to understand the challenges faced by underrepresented populations can greatly improve the interactions and relationships we have with our patients and help us all become more culturally competent physicians.”
The organization recently partnered with the Dermatology Club to host the first Melanin in Medicine conference on campus. Organizers wanted to bring awareness to the various skin conditions that impact individuals of all races and ethnicities.
During the conference, students attended lectures, interactive patient panels and an exhibitor fair. Among the topics of discussion were skin, nail and hair disorders; vitiligo diagnosis and treatment; and melanoma.
Students from Norfolk State University, College of William & Mary, Hampton University and Christopher Newport University attended the event, as well as several students from Maury High School, Bayside High School and Norfolk Academy.
“Events like these are important as there is a great need to increase the number of racially and ethnically underrepresented minorities in healthcare,” says Taylor Dyson, MD Class of 2022. “Melanin in Medicine is one example of how EVMS is taking steps to increase diversity in the field of medicine, specifically dermatology.”
Diversity among medical specialties was one of the main topics of discussion at the SNMA Region VI Leadership Institute hosted at EVMS in September.
“The Regional Leadership Institute’s purpose is to build leadership among students in the health and pre-health professions programs,” says Mekbib Gemeda, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. “SNMA recognizes that diversity of professionals in all specialties advances excellence in healthcare and improves health outcomes.”
During the conference, students gained new skills through clinical seminars, professional lectures, panels and discussions on various social issues.
“We learned about leadership and how we can become competent leaders in the medical field,” says Stafford Brown, MS (Medical Master’s ’18), MD Class of 2022 and EVMS SNMA chapter President. “Oftentimes, minorities face additional struggles to obtain positions of leadership, and it’s been great to get advice that is specific to us.”
“SNMA recognizes that diversity of professionals in all specialties advances excellence in healthcare and improves health outcomes.”
Mekbib Gemeda, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
In addition to conferences and seminars, the EVMS chapter of SNMA also provides rewarding opportunities to volunteer in various mentoring programs at colleges across Hampton Roads.
“As a pre-medical student, I did not have the tools I needed to ensure success in the medical school application process or to prepare for medical school,” says Le’Nisha Williams, MD Class of 2022. “With SNMA’s strong affiliation with various undergraduate institutions, we are a resource to the students in our mentorship programs and can provide them with the tools many of us did not have.”
For many members, SNMA is more than a club or organization — it’s a supportive and inclusive family that welcomes all. The dozens of people gathered around food from countries such as Ghana, Jamaica, Poland and the Philippines at the Cultural Fair are great examples of that community.
“So often people forget it’s not just a race thing,” says Shammah Okai, MD Class of 2021, former SNMA President. “There are so many other ethnicities and cultures within this community that we need to highlight and celebrate, so what better way to celebrate Black History Month than with a celebration of diversity?”