UMB’s Black History Month posts displayed by tag

School of Dentistry’s Otto Wins MLK Student Award

President Jay. A Perman, MD, is fond of telling new UMB graduates to “go out and change the world.” Tiffany Otto hasn’t graduated yet, but she already is on course toward changing things for the better.

A fourth-year student at the School of Dentistry, Otto has provided meaningful discussions for minority professionals after traumatic local and national incidents with University events such as an open forum on the shooting deaths of unarmed black men with City Councilman Brandon Scott, a post-Freddie Gray meeting where she allowed her colleagues to speak freely and safely, and helped coordinate an event supporting slain Muslim students at colleges in North Carolina with other student groups on the UMB campus.

She has served in organizations such as Healthy Smiles for Baltimore (vice president), the Baltimore Minority Council of Professional and Graduate Students (vice chairman), and the Student National Dental Association (president), which won Chapter of the Year honors for notable programs such as the Taste Bud Tour, where cultural groups shared their cuisines.

For this and much more, Otto will receive a Diversity Recognition Award as Outstanding UMB Student at the University’s Black History Month celebration Feb. 1.

“I truly don’t have many hobbies, thus service and upliftment of others serves me just fine,” Otto said when asked how she finds time for her yeoman organizational efforts. “It is energizing and exhausting, yet empowering at the same time. My commitment to inclusivity, dialogue, support, and service is an integral part of my being.”

This has been demonstrated in her many successful events. The open forum on the shooting of black men provided a safe space for students from all seven UMB schools to discuss their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes without fear or backlash. The goal of this, as well as many of her initiatives and events she has been involved with at the University, was to help students of marginalized ethnic groups and various religious backgrounds attain healing, discussion, and awareness amongst each other.

“I’m incredibly grateful, honored, and thankful that I attend a University that offers such a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. diversity recognition award,” Otto said. “This shows UMB’s commitment to Dr. King’s principles, and that makes me proud to be here. My hope is that this award will inspire students and staff to initiate conversations and spread love to their colleagues, friends, and community members who share different backgrounds than them.”

Some of her best work outside the classroom — it’s easy to forget Otto also maintains a rigorous dental school schedule that includes clinic work with patients several days a week — has come with the Student National Dental Association (SNDA), an organization that strives to uplift minority students.

She was community service chair for SNDA during her second year at UMB and created service events for students, on and off campus. The next year she became president and hosted over triple the community service events. In addition, she led four professional development programs, seven general body meetings, and more.

The school’s SNDA chapter won Chapter of the Year for the second consecutive year, this time with Otto as president. Notable activities were highlighted such as the Taste Bud Tour, during which all cultural groups on campus were invited to share their cuisines; Generation NeXT, which provided opportunities for School of Dentistry students to mentor high school students at the Vivien Thomas Medical Arts Academy; and an Oral Cancer Walk, which raised $19,445.

Otto says all of the SNDA events would not have been possible without the help of her executive board and chapter members who also shared the same vision of service and cultural competence.

“Her impact toward diversity and inclusivity has been monumental over her four years at the school,” said those who nominated her. “She has been a leader every step of the way.”

Otto, who plans to do a dental residency program in New York (and do community projects, of course) after graduating from UMB, credits her parents for putting her on the public service path.

“My character has been shaped by my childhood experiences in a racially diverse small town called South Orange in New Jersey, coupled by a ‘village’ of family and friends who share similar core values,” Otto said. “My parents taught me very early to treat others well, to do good, and to be the change that I wish to see — and it has truly gone a long way. It took a village to get me here, and I owe it to that village to enter spaces at UMB with the same love, energy, and tenacity that they taught me.”

— Chris Zang

Chris ZangClinical Care, Collaboration, Community Service, Contests, Education, People, Technology, UMB News, University Life, USGAJanuary 26, 20180 comments
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CURE Scholars Program Wins MLK Staff Award

Princaya Sanders used to dream of being a professional wrestler. Now, she has her heart set on anesthesiology. Shakeer Franklin was a disruptive, inattentive middle school student. Now, he plans to be a psychotherapist. Nicholas Knight aspired to be an NFL player. Now he sees a career in health care.

These are just three of the lives that have been changed by the UMB CURE Scholars Program, which for 2 1/2 years has been taking young people from West Baltimore with an interest in science and molding them into future health care workers and researchers through hands-on workshops, lab experiences, and mentorship.

On Feb. 1, the UMB CURE Scholars Program’s central leadership team will receive the Outstanding UMB Staff Award as part of the University’s Black History Month celebration.

When informed of the program’s selection of this award, executive director Robin Saunders, EdD, MS, noted, “This program is truly a labor of love for all of us on the central leadership team. I am honored to work with a team of committed professionals who work tirelessly to positively impact and transform the lives of young West Baltimore students and their families.

“I am amazed at the progress of our scholars who were often overlooked and perhaps even written off due to the socioeconomic status of their neighborhoods. This program demonstrates that when students have opportunities and high expectations, they can rise to immeasurable heights.”

Launched in October 2015, the program has grown to include 80 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders, not to mention the nearly 200 mentors from UMB schools recruited by CURE staff members. The UMB CURE Scholars are the youngest ever to participate in the National Cancer Institute’s Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) national program. With the first cohort of UMB CURE middle schoolers entering high school in fall 2018, their improved grades, including math and reading scores, and stellar school attendance becomes all the more important.

After school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the scholars are transported to the Baltimore City Community College Life Sciences Institute at the University of Maryland BioPark for their training with mentors. On Saturdays, they meet at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy to take part in A Bridge to Academic Excellence, where they receive tutoring.

The UMB Writing Center also has held workshops to help prepare the students for the college application process. Field trips have included museums, mechanical engineering labs, pharmacy and dental school, anatomy class, and planetary presentations. Summer camps have exposed the scholars to new discoveries as well.

“I think it’s amazing,” said sixth-grade scholar Jazire Faw. “Last week we dissected a sheep’s eye, and I thought that was really cool.”

By enhancing that love of science from groups under-represented in the biomedical and health care workforces, UMB hopes to create a pipeline that will see the scholars through college into rewarding careers — breaking the cycle of poverty so prevalent in West Baltimore.

“We’ve established that in these students we’ve got talent to spare, but now we have to make the opportunity,” UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, said on Saturday, Oct. 14, as the third cohort of CURE scholars slipped on the program’s signature white laboratory coats.

“We have to dismantle the barriers that separate our young people from their potential and from their purpose. We have to give these students what they need to rise, because I’ve seen them rise, and it’s beautiful to watch.”

Each year at UMB’s Black History Month celebration, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Awards are presented for individual and/or group achievements in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness. The recipients serve as models of the ideals epitomized by the life and work of Dr. King.

Saunders (pictured above with CURE colleagues Lauren Kareem, MEd, and Borndavid McCraw) is proud that the UMB CURE Scholars Program is taking its place among former outstanding staff recipients.

“We are thrilled to be recognized for our challenging and complex yet rewarding work,” she said. “We are grateful to have been selected for this prestigious award named after a great man who gave his life to improve conditions for people who, like our scholars, are often overlooked, forgotten, and perhaps even written off. This award is a blessing and we greatly appreciate this acknowledgment on behalf of the many mentors, faculty, staff, and partners who support our important work, our amazing scholars, and our comprehensive program.”

For more on UMB’s Black History Month celebration, click here.

— Chris Zang

Chris Zang Bulletin Board, Clinical Care, Collaboration, Community Service, Contests, Education, People, Research, Technology, UMB News, University Life, USGAJanuary 23, 20182 comments
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