Newswise — ST. LOUIS - A group of 40 students are part of Saint Louis University's Student National Medical Association chapter (SNMA), who are striving to reduce health disparities locally. This year, they received the Leadership in Institutional Diversity Award, a recognition given to a university for serving as an outstanding example of leadership and innovation in promoting and maintaining institutional diversity.
Through their Community Health Coalition initiative, the chapter works in conjunction with other SLU School of Medicine interest groups to provide the underserved neighborhoods with flu shots, blood pressure and head and neck cancer screenings, spread awareness about organ donation and HIV through sessions, invitr noted speakers in the field of medicine at SLU and host numerous events that showcase diversity on campus.
"It's important to know the science of medicine and how to diagnose a patient, but if you can't identify with your patient, you will fail to connect with them on a personal level. This is a significant aspect of the patient-physician relationship," said Arielle Randolph, a second year medical student and co-president of the chapter. "As part of the SNMA mission, we strive not only to reach out to medically underserved communities, but also to talk to our classmates and faculty about diversity on campus and issues pertaining to health disparities."
"The best way for a student to become a fine physician is to be able to serve others," said Michael Railey, M.D., associate dean of multicultural affairs and associate professor at SLU School of Medicine. "The work that these students do through SNMA keeps them in connection with the people they are going to serve."
Throughout the year, SNMA hosts diversity awareness initiatives that educate medical students on how to deal with different types of people and also help communities with certain health care needs.
In the past, SNMA has invited prominent speakers such as Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., associate dean of diversity and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University to address how to talk with patients about sexual health. They also have organized informational sessions about nutrition, dietetics, organ donation and bone marrow registration, collaborated with different groups on campus to hold panel discussions and hosted diversity initiatives like the Black History Month, and events that highlight cultures of different countries.
"We try to spread awareness of the diversity-health related issues in the St. Louis area and bridge the gaps in health care," said Tiffany Adams, second-year medical student and the other co-president of the chapter. "Going forward, we would like to increase our presence in the community and make connections with local churches and organizations, and work toward the common goal of mitigating health disparities."
Both Randolph and Adams were motivated by different circumstances that led them to serve the communities in need. While one was inspired by her family, the other was moved by growing up in a neighborhood that didn't have access to resources and health care services.
"I commuted a few hours each day to the other side of the city to get better education," Adams said. Having grown up in that environment, she always wanted to reach out to neighborhoods that didn't have access to appropriate health care services and help them.
Randolph, on the other hand, was inspired by her grandfather who served low income communities in the St. Louis area as a family physician for over 50 years.
"I've always had a passion for working with people who don't have resources that others take for granted," Randolph said. "So often we talk about the horrific health statistics in St. Louis, while doing little to change the problem. Being part of SNMA at SLU is one way that allows me to do something about it."
Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disease and heart/lung disease.