By Dirk Hoffman
Published December 12, 2023
Delicious aromas, colorful displays and upbeat sounds filled the atrium of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Dec. 1 as the school’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) presented the 2023 edition of its Taste of Culture event.
Medical students and others in the UB community all joined together to share in the food, music, art and performances.
SNMA President Moriah Martindale noted the student 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.”
Master of ceremonies Joseph Wahba, a second-year medical student, noted that several years ago, SNMA created Taste of Culture as one of it staple events “as an opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate the diverse cultural fabric of our medical school.”
The food was a big draw as the event began as attendees lined up to have their plates filled with a variety of ethnic treats served by SNMA members. Local restaurants provided entrees such as jollof rice, pepper stew, curry chicken, rice & beans, veggie pad thai, veggie curry and chicken tikka masala.
Appetizers included empanadas and plantains, while cinnamon sugar beignets were available as dessert.
Students’ works of art were also on display at the other end of the atrium, as well as some displays of artifacts and photos from different cultures — such as a watercolor painting from Mexico City, Baltic fabrics and a photograph from Rio de Janeiro.
Tyler Rolland, a trainee in the doctoral program in physiology, brought his research to life in a stunning visual display of cardiac fibroblasts on a large-screen color monitor.
His research presentation was titled “Duality of Cardiac Fibroblasts in Heart Health and Disease: Beneficial or Detrimental?”
Second-year medical student David Kim delighted the crowd with piano performances of compositions by Felix Mendelssohn and Frédéric Chopin.
Medical students were also showcased in some rousing vocal performances. Genesis Hester and Nathanial Gregory Graves sang the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as a duet. Graves later sang a solo version of “Home” from the 1975 Broadway musical, “The Wiz.”
More than a dozen UB students participated in a fashion show in the M&T Auditorium that highlighted wardrobes from countries across the globe including the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Zambia, Austria, Afghanistan, India and Taiwan.
Jennifer Okewunmi, a third-year student in the School of Dental Medicine noted she was representing her country of Nigeria.
“I am really happy to be showing people my culture, showcasing the beauty that we have in our fabrics and in our customs,” she said.
Franchesca Magdalena Arecy, a doctoral student in the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, said it was “great to be able to represent my culture in a cultural garment.”
“I’ve never done anything like this before so let’s just say it feels like a great day to be a Dominican. I feel great,” Arecy said.
Wahba, the emcee, also spoke briefly about the importance for students to develop cultural competency.
“One of the great things about Buffalo is you have people coming from all different backgrounds,” he said. “Whether you are from New York City, Buffalo or the suburbs or from a different country, the thing that unites us all is that we all need health care.”
“And that should bring us all together. Because we need to offer everyone the health care that they deserve — taking into consideration their values, or maybe helping out a patient who may not really know the language too well.”
“We should all remember this when we explore various cultures here tonight,” Wahba said.
SNMA was supported by the Jacobs School’s Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement (OICE) in producing the event.
“The mission of our office is to promote equity and inclusion,” said Anyango Kamina, PhD, interim unit diversity officer and assistant dean of student development and academic enhancement. “Several ways to do this are by celebrating the diversity that is represented in our school and by creating spaces for us to engage with and learn from our communities.”
Kamina said the goals for these kinds of events include fostering collaboration and participation, celebrating culture, and promoting inclusion.
“We also want to foster an environment where the needs of our community are acknowledged and addressed and improve cultural sensitivity by engaging in reflections, continuous self-assessments, and expanding our understanding to learn and grow.”
“The feedback and the level of participation we get has been overwhelmingly positive, not only at this particular event, but for all the initiatives we have put together during the past year,” Kamina says.
Among the initiatives are:
To conclude the Taste of Culture event, members of the SNMA 2023-2024 Executive Board announced their successors by revealing the results of a recent executive board election.
The SNMA 2024-2025 Executive Board will consist of the following members: