Amazing young minds with infinite potential was the story of our first day on this Tour 4 Diversity. Langston University, outside of Oklahoma City, arrived in a large group via a bus ready to hear our stories and most importantly ready to engage. They were an amazing group of students with clear goals, but throughout the day I began to reflect on an integral part of the health career process that wasn’t as evident in their backgrounds – mentoring. In particular, exposure to organizations created specifically to assist students of color along their road to becoming health care providers.
The most shocking moment of the day was when we asked how many of the students in the room had heard of the Student National Medical Association. I looked around and only a handful, out of over thirty students, raised their hands. This was an absolutely foreign concept to me, as nearly every single premedical student of color knew of the organization on my undergraduate campus and many were a part of the premedical student organization affiliated with it. Yet, in the room we had assembled a swath of students from this historically black university who were completely unaware of its existence.
Students from underrepresented backgrounds are already just that – underrepresented and too often under-resourced. Many muddle through this process of becoming a health care provider without enough guidance from their institutions and a lack of role models in their communities. And in my experience it is organizations like the SNMA that has bridged the gap for students.
I suppose this is why I was saddened to discover that a resource I’ve always considered invaluable was relatively unknown in this group. Thus, I urge those with these organizations on their campuses to get involved because as I learned today it is a privilege to have them available and functioning. For others who attend programs without them I would advise them to reach out to nearby SNMA chapters and establish a relationship so they can take advantage of some of the mentoring opportunities that are available.