Music and a festive atmosphere filled Pierson Auditorium in the UMKC Atterbruy Student Success Center on Saturday night, Feb. 16, when nearly 200 people enjoyed the fifth annual UMKC Health Sciences Harmony Gala.
The event is sponsored by the UMKC Health Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Council. It serves as a scholarship fundraiser to support underrepresented minority students enrolled in the UMKC health sciences schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Health Studies, and Pharmacy.
In addition to dinner and dancing, the event included a presentation of the 2019 Health Care Provider Diversity Awards. This year’s awards were presented to Children’s Mercy, the Sojourner Health Clinic, Saint Luke’s Health System and Truman Medical Centers.
The award acknowledges and honors health care professionals of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds for their outstanding commitment to provide health care to underserved populations in the Kansas City metro area.
Fifty-one years ago, a group of Chicago artists created a community mural called the Wall of Respect that revitalized the neighborhood in the city’s South Side. Last year, in the same spirit, Kansas City’s Jewish Community Center created its own Wall of Respect to celebrate the diversity of cultures in the community.
That project, a 12-foot yurt decorated by local artists, will be on display in the third-floor atrium of the UMKC Health Sciences Building for one week beginning Feb. 4. The following week, Feb. 11-15, the yurt will be set up at UMKC’s Student Union.
A yurt is a circular tent typically made of felt or animal skins mounted on a collapsible frame. The local Wall of Respect project was decorated by artists representing the African American, Jewish, Asian American, Latinx/Hispanic and Native American cultures that enhance the diversity of Kansas City. Murals are painted inside and outside the yurt as well as on the roof.
Tamica Lige is chair of the Health Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Council that is bringing Kansas City’s Wall of Respect to the university’s two campuses. The council is made up of representatives of the UMKC schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Health Studies, and Pharmacy, Children’s Mercy, Saint Luke’s Health System and Truman Medical Center.
“This is a good way for us to be involved with not only spreading the message of diversity, but also an appreciation of the arts,” Lige said. “It’s exciting that we can bring this community piece that represents diversity and inclusion in Kansas City to our campuses.”
Lige said cutout handprints will be available for visitors to decorate and hang inside the yurt to share their own ideas and stories of culture.
Jill Maidhof, director of the Jewish Community Center, will lead a walking tour and give a presentation on the yurt at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the Health Sciences Building.
The yurt display is coming to UMKC as a leadup to the Health Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Council’s annual Harmony Gala event on Feb. 16. The annual dance event is a scholarship fundraiser for underrepresented minority students at the health sciences schools. Registration is still available online at umkcalumni.com/harmonygala.
“This is the perfect time to bring the yurt to campus, in conjunction with the Harmony Gala,” Lige said. “It’s about diversity, it’s inclusion, it’s recognizing disparities and trying to address them. It’s a way to visually represent where we want to go in representing the various cultures of our community within our schools.”
Lige said this will be the first time the yurt has visited UMKC.
“It’s exciting to have it at both campuses,” she said. “We’re looking forward to sharing it with the Volker campus. The majority of what we do is focused on students here on the health sciences campus. This gives us an opportunity to serve the greater student population of UMKC and that’s really rewarding.”
She will speak on “Addressing Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities: Implications for Children’s Mental Health and Well-being.”
Stewart has spent decades as chief executive officer and executive director of large public mental health systems in Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan. She currently serves at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center as associate professor and chief of social and community psychiatry. She is also director of the school’s Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth.
Before going to the University of Tennessee, Stewart was the executive director of a federally funded system of care program in Memphis for children with serious emotional disorders and their families.
An experienced health care administrator and nationally recognized expert in public sector and minority issues in mental health care, Stewart also worked as executive director of the National Leadership Council on African-American Behavioral Health.
The annual Shannon Lectureship takes place each February to create awareness about health disparities. It has welcomed such distinguished national speakers as former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan, as well as noted local leaders in minority health.
The School of Medicine has recently welcomed two new staff members in the offices of Diversity and Inclusion, and Admissions.
Rachel McCommon is coordinator of diversity and strategic initiatives. She will focus on multicultural affairs to support student and resident success and strategic planning to support faculty and staff working with a diverse student population.
Allan Davis serves as coordinator of diversity programs and recruitment. He will coordinate the school’s high school pipeline programs, Summer Scholars and the Saturday Academy.
McCommon joins the School of Medicine with more than 10 years of experience addressing areas of multicultural programing, student success, recruitment and community outreach. Her efforts have also focused on issues that impact access to higher education for underrepresented K-12 students and supporting current college students.
McCommon graduated from Emporia State University with a degree in rehabilitation service education and a minor in leadership. She received her master’s degree in higher education administration from UMKC and previously worked in the university’s undergraduate admissions office as the multicultural recruiter. She also taught college prep and life-after-college classes at Alta Vista Charter High School in Kansas City.
She has been particularly involved in issues that impact the success of women and Latinx students. McCommon actively participates in Cuerpo de Areito, a Puerto Rican folkloric dance group to support and educate others on Puerto Rican culture and traditions.
McCommon said she is excited to add to the culture and environment of the School of Medicine and values the importance of supporting students with an open-door policy. She can be reached at 235-6251 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Davis joins the School of Medicine with experience as a recruiter and instructor. A graduate of Brigham Young University with degrees in American studies and theater history, he also received a Ph.D. in theater and performance study from the University of Maryland with a research focus on whiteness in the United States.
He served as a course instructor for eight years at BYU, American University in Washington, D.C., and at Maryland, and has served as a recruiter for undergraduate and graduate programs. He also managed a living-learning community at the University of Maryland. After moving to Kansas City, Davis worked at the Office of Academic Affairs at the UMKC School of Pharmacy before joining the School of Medicine.
Dedicated to cultivating a diverse student body, Davis will lead the School of Medicine’s pipeline programs to provide enriching experiences for the next generation of medical professionals. He can be reached at 235-5434 or email@example.com.
For more than a decade, underrepresented minority students in the Kansas City area eager for careers as physicians, have found encouragement at Critical Mass Gathering a free, day-long program to promote excellence and success in the field.
Underrepresented minority students at Kansas City’s three area medical schools, UMKC School of Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine and the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, and those in the greater Kansas City area interested in pursuing a career as a physician participated in the annual event on Oct. 13 at the UMKC Student Union.
This year’s program featured workshops such as strategies for medical students preparing to take medical licensing exams, scenarios of physicians in natural disaster and mass casualty events and one-on-one mentoring sessions with local physicians.
Following a dinner, students heard a panel discussion on financing tips, residency interview techniques, and preparing for boards. Stephen Odaibo, M.D., founder and CEO of RETINA-AI, a company using artificial intelligence to improve health care, gave an evening keynote address about the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of medicine.
“Critical Mass Gathering has been providing mentorship for 13 years, which is an essential component of successful matriculation,” said Nate Thomas, UMKC School of Medicine associate dean for diversity and inclusion.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine has received a 2018 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.
The School of Medicine, renowned for its innovative six-year BA/MD program, is the only university program in Missouri and one of 10 medical schools in the country to be recognized. The award program is competitive each year; on average, 175 schools compete for the HEED honor annually.
“Our school is honored to receive the HEED Award,” said Mary Anne Jackson, interim dean. “Diversity and inclusion is top of mind in educating future physicians and health professionals because ultimately it means delivering the best patient care.”
As a recipient of the Health Professions HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. medical, dental, pharmacy, osteopathic, nursing and allied health schools that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — UMKC School of Medicine will be featured, along with 34 other recipients, in the December 2018 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.
“We want people to see the UMKC School of Medicine as a place of best practices nationally and globally, and the HEED Award signifies one way we demonstrate our success,” said Nathan Thomas, associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the UMKC School of Medicine. “Our aim is to continue to attract outstanding diverse faculty, staff, residents and students to our university.”
INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine selected the UMKC School of Medicine for several reasons:
Its decades-long successful high-school Summer Scholars and Saturday Academy pipeline programs
Students in Medicine, Academia, Research and Training (SMART) retention and graduation mentoring program
“Expect Respect” committee to address mistreatment issues and promote healthy work and learning environments
The School of Medicine recently received a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources to expand and enhance its pipeline and mentoring programs across the schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy.
In 2016, the UMKC School of Dentistry was one of three dental schools in the that won a HEED Award.
“The Health Professions HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both; continued leadership support for diversity; and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a Health Professions HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for schools where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being accomplished every day across their campus.”
When it comes to attending and completing a health professions degree program, students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds typically succeed at a far lower rate than students from strong schools with thriving communities.
The UMKC School of Medicine, in collaboration with the School of Dentistry and the School of Pharmacy, is working to change that with the aid of a recent five-year, $3.2-million grant from the United States Health Resources and Services Administration to support a partnership program designed to improve those numbers.
Students in Training, in Academia, Health and Research (STAHR) Partnership is a two-pronged initiative to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering health care programs and better prepare them for success. It will continue to build up and expand on the medical school’s already successful high school Summer Scholars program and the dental school’s Admissions Enhancement Program.
Undergraduate and graduate students admitted to UMKC health professions programs have the opportunity to participate in the STAHR Ambassador program, a research-based mentoring model that uses defined principles, known as the Thomas Principles, to retain and graduate students.
Alice Arredondo, UMKC admissions director, also serves as assistant dean of admissions at the School of Medicine. A co-investigator on the grant proposal, Arredondo said students from disadvantaged backgrounds historically experience greater challenges entering and succeeding in health care fields.
“This grant will allow us to support students in overcoming academic, economic and social barriers, while having an impact on the diversity in our educational environment and the success of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UMKC health sciences,” she said.
Nate Thomas, School of Medicine associate dean for diversity and inclusion and co-investigator, said he and Arredondo used research-based best practices for admissions, retention and graduation and work already being done at the schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy as a basis for their successful grant request. He added that the medical school’s quickly growing student research program played an important role.
Academic preparation and resources are lacking for many students in the Kansas City region who are interested in entering the health professions. The STAHR program is designed to address those needs and introduce students from underprivileged backgrounds to careers in health care that would otherwise seem out of reach.
“This partnership will allow us to help students develop academically, psychosocially, professionally and as leaders who can have a positive impact on the workforce and their communities,” Thomas said.
The Scholars Summer Program will offer different tracts for high school and current college students. The high school program will expand the medical school’s Summer Scholars program that began in 1980 for students to explore career opportunities in health care and prepare them to enter and succeed in college. The grant allows this program to extend from two to six weeks, and provides increased focus on recruiting and retaining students interested in health care fields. The undergraduate program will also be six-weeks and with increased experiences in a clinical setting, supplemental instruction in the sciences, research opportunities, and reinforced skill development to support student academic progression and retention.
The year-round Ambassador Program for undergraduate and professional students will focus on student development. A tiered cluster mentoring framework with faculty members, residents, practitioners and upper-class college students, provides leadership and career development to further prepare younger college and professional students for success in post-graduate residencies and the health professions workforce.
“By providing students early access to hands-on programming and mentoring, we are focused on preparing students to achieve success in college and, eventually, graduate or professional school and the workforce,” Arredondo said.
Patricia Marken, Pharm.D., F.C.C.P., associate dean for student affairs at the School of Pharmacy, said the grant supports programs that will help produce health care professionals that are in demand.
“This grant increases the chance for talented students to achieve a career that is personally fulfilling, positively impacts communities and provides financial security for their own family,” she said. “The School of Pharmacy is excited to be a part of this grant and partner with our colleagues in the UMKC Health Sciences District.”
HRSA highlighted the collaborative partnership between the schools as a strength.
“I am really excited about the inter-professional opportunities for our dental and dental hygiene students to build relationships with students pursuing other health care careers,” Melanie Simmer-Beck, professor and director of the School of Dentistry Admission Enhancement Program, said.
The School of Nursing and Health Studies, while not part of the funding proposal, did help in framing the initial steps of the grant, Thomas said. It does offer similar federal-grant funded programming for high school and college students, including KC HealthTracks, providing mentorship and programs for more than a dozen area high schools.