E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and dean of the School of Medicine (UMSOM), shared his mantra with a group of students gathered for a Minorities in Health Care presentation Feb. 21 at UMSOM’s Leadership Hall.
“Think big, aim high, stay focused, and be relentless,” Reece told the students while stressing the importance of dressing for success. “People make up their minds about your intellect based on your deportment. Deportment matters. Remember that every day.”
For Black History Month, the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), Student National Dental Association (SNDA), and Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) at UMB highlighted the successes and accomplishments of remarkable under-represented minorities in their fields.
“We wanted to organize an event to encourage minorities because sometimes we feel the obstacles are harder than the accomplishments,” said Claudia Avalos, a second-year UMSOM student and president of the SNMA.
Three leaders from UMB spoke — Reece, Mary J. Njoku, MD, associate professor and vice chair for education in the UMSOM Department of Anesthesiology, and Dwayne Everett, DDS, oral surgeon and professor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. The speakers offered advice for students as well as words of inspiration and encouragement.
Njoku, whose parents emigrated from Nigeria, told the students to take ownership and responsibility for their learning.
“Recognize what you know and do something about what you don’t know,” she said. “Always recognize an opportunity and allow yourself the freedom of new ideas and reevaluation of your old ones.”
Everett, gave the students the same advice he gives his children: “Stand on your achievements but never sit on them.” He added, “Take every ounce of knowledge you can from this place and never allow your light not to shine its brightest.”
Netsanet Woldegerima, a first-year medical student and immigrant from Nigeria, enjoyed the presenters— especially Njoku, who spoke of the impact her immigrant parents had on her life.
“Seeing minorities like that makes me realize that any barriers can be overcome,” she said. “Seeing others have made it reassures me I can get there, too.”
Ellis Tibbs, a third-year MD/PhD student, said he found the presentation extremely insightful.
“It struck me,” he said of Everett’s advice. “Now that I’m here, I shouldn’t take anything lightly. It should push me further.”
— Betsy Stein