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Students in the News

UC SNMA chapter hosts regional conference in the College of Medicine

UC SNMA chapter hosts regional conference in the College of Medicine

Published: 10/16/2018

CINCINNATI—The University of Cincinnati (UC) chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) will host a Midwest regional conference Oct. 19-21, 2018, at the College of Medicine. The theme for this year’s conference is "Excellence Forever.”
SNMA was founded in 1964 by medical students at Howard University and Meharry Medical College and is the oldest and largest independent, student-run organization focused on the needs and concerns of black medical students in the United States. The organization is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students, addressing the needs of underserved communities and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.
SNMA has over 150 medical chapters, which implement educational, outreach and mentoring activities consistent with the goal of the organization. Student chapters belong to one of 10 SNMA regions and each is led by a regional director. UC is part of Region 5, which includes medical schools in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

The keynote speaker at this year’s conference is Marilyn Gaston, MD, former assistant surgeon general and director of Bureau of Primary Health Care. Gaston, a U.S. Public Health Service Rear Admiral, received her medical degree in 1964 from the UC College of Medicine. She completed her pediatrics residency at Cincinnati Children’s and as a physician-researcher was known for her groundbreaking research which proved the effectiveness of giving children with sickle cell disease long-term penicillin treatment to prevent septic infections. Gaston is the first black woman to direct a public health service bureau. The College of Medicine also offers a minority scholarship for medical students named in her honor.
The UC chapter of SNMA is drawing inspiration from the Marvel Studios superheroes movie "Black Panther” with its theme of "Excellence Forever" at this year's conference, says Sarah Smith, a second-year medical student and vice president of the local SNMA chapter. Smith says the three-day conference will consist of motivational speakers, interactive workshops, presentations of student research projects, networking opportunities and a final banquet.
"The organization is designed as a support system for students of color. It’s a safe space to talk about challenges in the classroom, clinic and community,” says Smith.
She says boosting the number of black physicians is an important goal. Having greater diversity in medicine helps to build trust between black patients and the medical community and may improve health outcomes, says Smith.
A New York Times article reports that about 4 percent of physicians are black while the nation’s African-American population is roughly 13 percent. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper indicates African-American men are more likely to feel comfortable with and take health cues from doctors who look like them. A study involving 702 black men in Oakland, California, who came to a clinic for free health screening offered more light on the issue of trust, according to the Times.

The men were assigned to a black male doctor or one who was white or Asian. Neither the men nor the doctors knew the purpose of the study was to determine if the race of physician mattered in advising patients, according to the New York Times article. The study found 63 percent of black men assigned to a black doctor for diabetes screening agreed to the procedure. For those assigned to a doctor who was white or Asian, consent among black male patients dropped to 43 percent, the Times reported.
Smith says it is important to have black physicians in positions of authority to advocate medically for black patients. "If we are not at the table helping to make decisions we can very easily get overlooked. There is something to be said for being treated by somebody who looks like you. There is a level of transparency and trust that is important to acknowledge,” says Smith.
Other speakers at this year's SNMA conference include Alvin Crawford, MD, professor emeritus of orthopaedic surgery and a UC Health surgeon, and Christopher Lewis, MD, vice provost for academic affairs at UC and founder of Village Life Outreach Project.
Smith says topics at the three-day conference include workshop on global health opportunities, discussions over ways to be successful during the clinical years, and addressing discrimination in the clinic. Pre-medical students will have a chance to attend sessions on osteopathic medicine, advice on what to do during your gap year, and hear more about the medical school admissions process. The conference is expected to draw over 160 participants.

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