May 13, 2014
Riya V. Anandwala

Students Receive John H. Gladney Diversity Award for Their Impact in the Community

Three medical students were recognized for promoting and enhancing diversity on campus and beyond

ST. LOUIS - Jennifer Ray, Kanika Turner and Taron Davis share a common passion — their commitment to raise diversity awareness.
Three fourth-year medical students are recipients of this year's John H. Gladney diversity awards
From left: guest speaker Dr. Ronald Wyatt, medical students Taron Davis,
Jennifer Ray, Kanika Turner, Dean of School of Medicine Philip O. Alderson, M.D.,
and Associate Dean of Office of Multicultural Affairs Michael Railey, M.D.

The three fourth-year medical students are recipients of this year's John H. Gladney diversity awards, a recognition given to students who promote and enhance diversity in the School of Medicine through academic performance, extracurricular or community activities, and organizational and committee involvement.

In the last four years, these students have led interest groups, spread the message of diversity on campus, mentored high school youth, hosted health fairs and educated medical fellow students about diversity-related issues in St. Louis and beyond.

"I am very passionate about mentoring youth because it encourages more interest in pursuing health careers, a field severely lacking minority physicians," said Ray who received the John H. Gladney Diversity award.

In her second year at SLU, Ray was the co-president of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) that worked to increase diversity awareness on campus with activities such as the Annual Diversity Showcase and Taste of Diversity food showcase. Ray also mentored and tutored middle and high school students, co-founded the Community Health Coalition, a free inner-city clinic that provides blood pressure readings, nutrition information and an organ donation registry.

"My goal was to increase interactions between medical students and the community in order to raise awareness about disparity issues," she said.

Along with Ray, Turner was the co-president of SNMA and co-founded the Community Health Coalition. During her last year of medical school, Turner started mentoring young girls at Collegiate School of Medicine and BioScience.

In each session, Turner would touch upon a variety of topics ranging from social media etiquettes, dressing and grooming to eating healthy, basics of female anatomy and menstrual health.

"The school had about 28 girls and in each session I talk to 18 to 20 girls," said Turner who received the John H. Gladney Diversity Champion Award. "This was a great experience. The girls enjoyed all sessions, but especially the one where I talked about healthy bodies."

The third winner, Davis, received the John H. Gladney Diversity Leadership award. During his initial years at the University, he helped build the pre-matriculation program in the Office of Multicultural Affairs for the underrepresented minority population who needed help with certain basic courses before formally starting medical school at SLU.

For the last three years, he has also been volunteering for St. Louis Arc, a nonprofit organization that provides support and services to adults and children with developmental disabilities.

"I see these as great opportunities to give back to the St. Louis community," Davis said. "It allowed me to funnel my energy into goals I'm really passionate about."

Davis was also one of the lead coordinators for the Health Resource Center — the 20-year-old free student run clinic at SLU. In addition to raising money and managing administrative duties for the clinic, Davis built a connection between HRC's uninsured patients and local health and social service community organizations that could help the patients with their health care needs.

"While working for the HRC, I learned so much about how health care is delivered, and difficulties and hurdles the uninsured and underinsured go through in order to get access to health care."

Michael Railey, M.D., associate dean in the Office of Multicultural Affairs said they had the largest number ever of well qualified applicants for the Gladney awards this year.

"All are winners," he said. "The students who apply are really special as they all are dedicated to service and contribution to the health care field and health disparity reduction."

John H. Gladney was the former chairman of the department of otolaryngology at the University. He was the first African-American to hold the position of chairman and of a basic science clinical department at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Ray, Turner and Davis feel fortunate to receive this recognition and believe this will help them in their medical career as they start their residency programs this year.

"Dr. Gladney was an amazing leader and paved the way for people of color to excel in health care fields like myself. It is gratifying to know that my career at medical school was hopefully influential to someone and served to increase diversity throughout," said Ray.

Davis feels the award is the culmination of his four years in the community.

"This award means we will continue to see the face of diversity in medicine grow and change," he said.

Working with a variety of people in the community gave Turner a different perspective. "It's more about being approachable," she said. "It has shaped the scope of my practice."

"This award goes hand in hand with my passion for family and community medicine," she said.

Five other fourth-year medical students Collin Chen, Francis Dailey, Andrea Ma, Christina Molumby and John Vu received the John H. Gladney Special Recognition award.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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