Published May 9, 2019
Undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds had the opportunity to experience medical school firsthand at “Shadow a Med Student Day,” held by UB’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA).
One of the oldest student-run organizations in the United States, SNMA 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.
“Our mission is to foster more diversity in medicine,” says Sherice Simpson, vice president of the chapter and a rising second-year student in the medical education program.
“‘Shadow a Med Student Day’ came out of that mission to show people early on what med school is like and that we (as students) want to be resources.”
Simpson, along with other medical student mentors taking part in the event, started the day meeting and talking briefly with undergraduate students. Then it was time to head to class.
Undergraduates sat in on lectures on bone marrow transplants and transfusion medicine. They also heard a presentation by Andrew S. Knapp, a trainee who had relied on Upstate New York Transplant Services in his battle with Hodgkin lymphoma.
In between lectures and presentations, medical student mentors talked with the undergraduates about the medical school experience and offered advice. The medical students were especially willing to talk about their journey to medical school and provide pointers on how to make the experience easier.
The day finished with a Soul Food and Sound celebration of Black History Month — held in the atrium of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in collaboration with the school’s Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement — giving students time to discuss the day’s events and make further connections.
Undergraduate students say they feel grateful for the opportunity. Experiencing a class firsthand and talking with students from similar backgrounds is more valuable than any other information that can be obtained before applying to medical school, they say.
“I think this was a great event for undergraduates of a minority background to come to the med school,” says Rosie Salomon, a nuclear medicine technology major. “This really validated my decision to go to med school. It’s definitely different coming here and seeing the smaller classes where everyone is interacting with each other. It was good to come here and actually experience what they go through.”
She adds that students don’t often hear about programs that enable current students to help future applicants.
Along with the actual experience of attending medical school classes, Dara Awoyomi, an occupational therapy student, says the advice she received was just as important.
“It was interesting to see the whole aspect of what a typical med school student day is like regularly,” Awoyomi says. “I’m not even sure if I want to go to med school yet, but it was nice to see how it is daily and how well you have to be disciplined.”
“It was definitely nice to relate to someone who’s been through that experience and ask them about study techniques, how she’s doing a lot of flashcards and connecting topics to each other,” says Awoyomi. She (Awoyomi’s mentor) also went to another school and then came here, so it’s nice to see something else different like that.”
“I think it was a great experience for the undergrads to come here and see what a day is like in med school because you’re pursuing something you won’t actually get until you get accepted,” says mentor Shanice Guerrier, a rising second-year medical student.
“It was really nice to be able to tell other undergrads something that can help them or put them at ease, because I know their anxiety is really through the roof about applying.”
Guerrier, like many underrepresented students, didn’t know anyone like her who had gone through the experience; she had to find her own way to medical school. It’s one of the reasons she wanted to be involved in UB’s chapter of the SNMA.
“My journey to medical school was rough because I had to figure things out on my own,” she says. “When I think back from my pursuits toward medical school, I didn’t have someone who I could reach out to that was in medical school.”
“I only had my classmates and whoever was around that could speak to it in my undergrad experience, so being able to give them advice that I wish I had was really fulfilling on my part,” she notes.
Like Guerrier, Simpson also remembers her experience of working toward medical school. She says it was events like “Shadow a Med Student Day” that kept her dream of medical school alive.
“I think this is very, very important,” she says. “I remember being pre-med at the University of Rochester, and I used to go to SNMA events where we would come in and spend a day at the med school, do workshops and listen to speakers. That really inspired me to keep going after that dream of going into medicine.”
“When you can connect with someone one-on-one, or see someone like you doing what you want to do, it shows you it’s possible,” she says.
Both Simpson and Guerrier emphasize that the diversity of their class at the Jacobs School has improved their education in remarkable ways, which is why lifting up underrepresented undergraduates through programs like this continues to be important.
“We are really blessed that our class is the most diverse class that UB has had at the med school this year,” says Simpson. “I like it because I feel like I’m learning from other people’s backgrounds. In medicine, we’re always working with different patients that have a different lifestyle or culture than us. Learning with people who are coming from all of those places fosters that environment because there are things I would never know about if I wasn’t working side by side with someone in that group.”
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Guerrier adds. “When you’re amongst so many diverse students, it makes you such a well-rounded person. It’s not as fun seeing the same thing over and over; you’re more interested in things you don’t know. It’s really nice to have that diverse class because of the many different experiences.”