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SLU Medical Student Wins Miss Black Illinois USA 2024

by Bridjes O'Neil
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Bridjes O'Neil
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ST. LOUIS — Tyler Lackland, a second-year medical student at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine, was named Miss Black Illinois USA 2024. Lackland will go on to compete next year in the national Miss Black USA 2024 pageant. 

Lackland has competed since she was a child. Empowered by her experience, she clears up any misconceptions about pageantry.

“The focus isn't just on physical beauty,” Lackland said. “They're asking me questions like, ‘What do you want to do with your life? What have you done with your life? What are your goals? How can you advance the field of STEM for women?’”

Tyler Lackland

Tyler Lackland, a second-year medical student at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine, was named Miss Black Illinois USA 2024.

Lackland was born in Chicago and raised in Springfield, Ill. She holds a bachelor’s in criminal justice from the University of Illinois at Springfield and planned to pursue a career in policing with the FBI. Now, she’s a second-year medical student at SLU.

Lackland, a former 911 dispatcher, says not knowing the outcome of emergency calls moved her to shift from law to medicine. She left dispatching to work in the emergency room because “that's where they end up,” she said. She remembers standing in the middle of an emergency room when a few female doctors rushed in at once.  

“They were like ‘you go over here, and you do this, and you do that,” Lackland said. “I was like ‘Oh, this is what I want to do. So, I started dipping my toes a little bit into ‘what is medicine and how do I get into it?’” 

Lackland found physicians who were willing to help guide her into medicine. She was also motivated by her grandfather, a researcher, and her dad, a holistic doctor who focuses on altering lifestyles to prevent chronic illnesses. She says it afforded her a slight introduction to medicine, but not Western medicine as we know it.

Lackland says she chose SLU because of its holistic approach to the admissions process and appreciated the University’s dedication to serving the local community. 

As a nontraditional medical student from a non-science background, Lackland finds SLU’s rigorous curriculum challenging but says it’s “what's going to make us outstanding physicians.”

Inspired by Something the Lord Made, a film about Black cardiac pioneer Vivien Thomas, Lackland has her heart set on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. Undeterred by the lack of women and Black women in the field, she is determined to study the disproportionate impact of heart disease on the Black community after losing her grandmother to congestive heart failure. She’s presently involved in research in the Departments of Vascular Surgery, Trauma Surgery, and Psychiatry at the School of Medicine.

Her long-term goals include developing community programs that employ good heart health and creating opportunities for underrepresented medical students.

Lackland is currently serving as a co-president of SLU’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter, academic affairs co-coordinator of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) Committee of SNMA, and co-representative of Pre-Clerkship Curriculum Committee. She was also accepted into the Summer Research Fellowship at the School of Medicine this summer.

As co-president, Lackland connects with to find research opportunities for underrepresented students and collaborates with the dean and faculty at the School of Medicine to combat educational disparities to improve student success. As academic affairs co-coordinator, she facilitates scholarship opportunities, conferences and webinars for students to guide them on how they can get into medicine. As the curriculum co-representative for the first-year class, she works closely with her counterpart to ensure fluidity and efficiency in bringing the curriculum to the student body.

Lackland hopes she will be regarded as a trailblazer who created opportunities for others.

About SLU School of Medicine

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.