The executive board of the SNMA chapter at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences poses for a photograph in the hallways of Perisistence Prep Academy.

Medical Students’ Outreach Celebrates Black History

By Dirk Hoffman

Published March 6, 2024

Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences medical students visited a Buffalo charter school Feb. 29 to help celebrate Black History Month.


The nine members of the Jacobs School’s executive board of its Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter visited Persistence Prep Academy on Buffalo’s East Side to educate the fifth-and-sixth-grade students on various topics surrounding Black history.

The SNMA e-board members are:

  • Aliaya Williams — president
  • Teara Robinson — vice-president
  • Chidalu Anameze — treasurer
  • Chidera Anameze — secretary
  • Jean Mars — fundraising chair
  • Medjie Chery — community service chair
  • Niaya Jackson — social media chair
  • Idem Essien — MAPS liaison
  • Ijeoma Nwugwo — historian
Medical students in school gym.

The medical students introduced themselves and shared fun facts about themselves at the program’s start in the school gymnasium.

Real-Life Examples of Accomplishment

The event started in the school’s gymnasium, where the medical students introduced themselves, talked about the medical specialties they intend to pursue, shared a fun fact about themselves and gave a piece of advice to their younger selves.

In her opening statement, Williams told the students “it is especially important for our health that our doctors, nurses and dentists not only look like us, but understand us and understand our culture and who we are.”

“We are motivated to encourage you — whether it is the medical field, law, engineering —getting an education is the best way to better your future,” she said. “Anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. Just look at us, we are all examples of that.”

Williams’ advice to her younger self: “to enjoy the journey and have fun while you are doing it.”

The students then broke into four separate groups that rotated through four presentations: Little-Known Black Heroes, Exploring Careers and Athlete Activism, Embracing Your Natural Hair, and Black Inventors.

Medical students walking down school hallway.

The medical students are on the receiving end of “high fives” from an enthustiastic crowd of students at Persistence Prep Academy.

Black History is American History

Robinson, the organizer of the event, said it was based on her recollections of what she wished for as an elementary student.

“Each year in February, we learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, and I always wondered why no new information was being taught,” she said.

“Although MLK and Rosa Parks were two amazing heroes who played a tremendous role in Black history, there are so many others that I never learned of until I began searching on my own later in life. As such, teaching students about Black inventors and other Black heroes in an enjoyable way was my goal,” Robinson said. “Furthermore, as a child, I always wished to have learned more about how to care for my natural hair. ​I aimed to help instill knowledge, confidence and a safe space for students to discuss their hair experiences.”

Robinson also said she has been very grateful to have been exposed to a career that caught her interest and it gave her the idea to highlight different professions and encourage the students that they can achieve any goal with dedication, consistence and resilience. 

“I decided to request that our e-board members wear our white coats and stethoscopes, as I had never seen any Black person do so at that age,” she said. “The students’ eyes lit up as they saw us walking through the hallways, and that meant the world to me.”

“The main message that I hope the students at Persistence Prep received is that Black history is American history and that it involves much more than slavery and narratives of inadequacy,” Robinson added. “I hope that students were encouraged to embrace the body that they were born in and know that they, too, can achieve anything that they put their minds to.”

Williams echoed that sentiment, saying ”our SNMA chapter is devoted to increasing diversity in the medical field, whether that is working with elementary, high school or undergraduate students. As the only SNMA chapter in Buffalo, it is vital that our club provides support and guidance to all who might be interested in the medical field, as well as showing all the little boys and girls, that if we can make it this far, so can they!”

Idem Essien talks to students about potential careers.

Idem Essien suggests potential careers the students could pursue.

Inspirational Stories and Messages

Chery and Chidalu Anameze led the session on Little-Known Black Heroes and told the students about people such as Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD, the first Black woman to earn a medical degree, and Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white woman at the age of 15 in Montgomery, Alabama, nine months before Rosa Parks was arrested for the same offense.

The students followed along while playing a Black History Month bingo card that contained words and pictures associated with the little-known heroes.

Mars and Essien talked to the students about careers and athlete activism, showing slides of famous professional athletes such as Kevin Durant, Stefon Diggs and Serena Williams.

When they showed a slide of Muhammad Ali, they made sure to note his role as an activist outside the boxing ring.

They also told the stories of Carl Allamby, MD, a mechanic who became a doctor at age 47, and Myron Rolle, a former Florida State University and Tennessee Titans football player who became a neurosurgeon after he retired from sports.

Also featured was a quote from Siya Kolisi, a rugby player who became the first Black captain of the South African national team: “You can become whatever you want to become, no matter what your background is.”

Teara Robinson talks to a student about natural hair care.

Teara Robinson talks to a student about natural hair care.

Individuality Embraced and Encouraged

Robinson and Jackson told the students to embrace their natural hair.

“If you look around, everyone looks different and that is OK. All hair is good hair,” Robinson said. “Be comfortable in the hair you were born in and do not be afraid to express yourself.”

“Your hair is beautiful, and diversity is to be celebrated. Be yourself, unapologetically,” Jackson added.

The women talked about their wash day routines and some of their favorite hair care products.

At the end of the session, the students were asked to write down why they love their hair and three ways they plan to take care of their hair.

Nwugwo and Chidera Anameze gave a presentation on five Black men and women who made groundbreaking inventions.

The inventors and their inventions were:

  • Alfred L. Cralle — the ice cream scooper
  • Lewis Howard Latimer — created an improved process for manufacturing carbon filaments for lightbulbs
  • Garrett Morgan — the three-way traffic light (adding amber)
  • Valerie Thomas — the illusion transmitter (technology still used by NASA)
  • Marie Van Brittan Brown — the video home security system

At the conclusion of the programs, the Persistence Prep students were treated to a pizza party.