Published September 25, 2013
First-year medical student Michelle Dick has been honored with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellowship for her demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Awarded by the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement, the fellowship provides $20,000 for tuition over four years.
Dick was recognized during the medical school’s 2013 Honors Convocation on Sept. 21.
Throughout her life, Dick has pursued opportunities to educate others about diversity, using her multiethnic background and a birth defect as teaching tools.
“The obstacles that stemmed from being half Colombian and having a cleft lip and palate inspired a strong interest in medicine and taught me much about the complexities of interacting with others,” she wrote in her application essay.
“Life is better when we see challenges as a chance to learn and serve.”
Dick was inspired early in life by the UB-affiliated and other physicians who cared for her—primarily at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo—through multiple surgeries and treatments for her birth defect.
The fellowship, she says, will provide an opportunity to give back to the medical school’s educational community and her chosen profession.
As a UB medical student and beyond, she plans to work towards “more diversity and cultural competence in all forms.”
She chose UB in part for its cooperative, rather than competitive, environment.
“I have always preferred this approach to education and feel it fosters a better future as a professional,” she says.
While earning her bachelor’s degree in health and society at the University at Rochester, Dick tutored refugee students from Bhutan, Somalia and the Dominican Republic.
As an undergraduate resident adviser and community assistant, she engaged students in activities and dialogue to help them learn about diverse cultures.
She also helped organize programs on the influences of sex and gender in health care and religion and ethical decisions in medicine.
Nearly fluent in Spanish, Dick volunteered as a translator at a migrant clinic in Western New York.
She also completed a study abroad program in Chile as well as a year-long independent study experience exploring the effects of the slave trade on Africa and Latin America.
Dick’s experiences and personal identity quest have enriched her life and provided her the skills to work with people from a variety of different backgrounds, she says.
In addition, her own physical challenges have allowed her to empathize with others and given her “the courage to stand up for equality and other social justices.”
These are qualities Dick plans to hone at medical school through community service and peer leadership roles—and bring to her future medical practice.
“Michelle’s dedication to the spirit of inclusiveness and openness to all experiences and perspectives will clearly be an asset to the scholarly community at UB’s medical school,” says Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion and professor and chair of pharmacology and toxicology.