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NYMC Hosts Virtual Event, Celebrating Diversity: Then and Now

The event celebrated the accomplishments of alumni and members of the Class of 2021 and gave a historical look at diversity and inclusion at NYMC.

June 01, 2021
Diversity and Inclusion Stock Photo

The event was an opportunity for graduating students to learn about opportunities in the New York Medical College (NYMC) alumni community and foster engagement between all generations of alumni. The evening also included a historical reflection on NYMC presented by Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and chief executive officer.

Dr. Etienne spoke of the importance of belonging in addition to diversity and inclusion. “We know very well that people do better at work and at school when they experience the feeling of belonging. I believe that in order to thrive in our NYMC alumni community and to be able to both contribute and benefit from that community, we all need to know that there is a place for us all,” said Dr. Etienne.

Joseph L. Giamelli, M.D. ’02, president of the SOM Alumni Association, SOM house advisory dean and associate professor of pediatrics, has been focusing on outreach to alumni and increasing the intergenerational connections in the alumni network. “As an alumnus, I'm very proud to be a part of the NYMC family for many reasons such as its renowned education, its cutting-edge research, its passion and commitment to healthcare and assisting the underserved, as well as the reason why we are here tonight,” he said. “It is a celebration for a culture of inclusion, which New York Medical College has represented since its founding 1860.”

Alumni Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to alumni in each school who have demonstrated superior performance in their field of practice and gone above and beyond the call of duty. “I would say that what they all have in common is that they are all visionary, have demonstrated transformational leadership, which at times appeared ahead of their time, and they have knocked down barriers for themselves and for others who are marginalized,” said Dr. Etienne.

On behalf of the SHSP, Amy Ansehl, D.N.P., R.N.,  M.S.N., FNP-BC, associate dean, student experience, director of applied practice experience and associate professor of public health, presented an Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award to Leroy Francis, M.P.H. ’07, for his significant community service and professional accomplishments as administrative director in the Department of Cardiology at Mount Sinai Queens and as a member of the Westchester Visiting Nurse Services board of directors and the Visiting Nurse Services in Westchester Foundation. Mr. Francis is a former recipient of the Healthcare Leaders of New York 2010 Early Careerist Award and has distinguished himself as an administrative director in hospital organizations including Mount Sinai, Northwell Health and the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He has enthusiastically mentored current M.P.H. students in career development and serves as a role model for translating his public health education at NYMC into professional achievement.

On behalf of the GSBMS, Marina K. Holz, Ph.D., dean of the GSBMS and professor of cell biology and anatomy, presented an Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award to Anton Bennett, Ph.D. ’93, the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Pharmacology and professor of comparative medicine, co-director of the Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism and director of minority affairs for the Graduate Program in Biological Biomedical Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Bennett is an active alumnus of NYMC, generously contributing his time, most recently, serving as the keynote speaker at the 2021 GSBMS Graduate Student Research Forum presented by the Graduate Students Association. He was the recipient of the inaugural GSBMS Distinguished Alumni Award presented at the NYMC 2019 Founder’s Dinner.

Jerry L. Nadler, M.D., MACP, FAHA, FACE, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of medicine and of pharmacology, presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Lucille Norville Perez, M.D. ’79, on behalf of the SOM. Throughout her career, Dr. Perez has focused on eliminating health disparities. She served as president of the National Medical Association, national health director of the NAACP and associate director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She is a leading authority on substance abuse and HIV prevention. Dr. Perez founded the Cave Institute, a venture committed to eliminating health care disparities through research ethics and advocacy. She was instrumental in providing emergency relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina and works closely with faith-based organizations to help improve the delivery of care to patients with a particular focus on improving their health literacy.

Trailblazer Awards were presented to graduating members of the Class of 2021 in each of the schools for being pioneers and pathfinders blazing the trail for someone else to follow and being the epitome of paying it forward. Criteria for these awards include community service, mentorship and academic excellence.

Dr. Ansehl presented a Trailblazer Award to Sabrina Vasques, M.S. ’21, who earned her degree in speech-language pathology from SHSP. As a 2019-2020 recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Award, Ms. Vasques contributed to the government of Ecuador in its mission of education equality for individuals with disabilities. During this experience, Ms. Vasques assisted a speech-language pathologist in the treatment of children at a non-profit special education school. As an undergraduate, Ms. Vasques was a project assistant at New York University School of Medicine in the Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy and Education Success, which focused on promoting parent and child interactions to enhance early language development in families with limited economic resources. These opportunities shaped Ms. Vasques’ vision as a speech-language pathologist to start a non-profit for individuals who are undocumented to receive speech and language services following a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Ms. Vasques was recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) as a recipient of an ASHA Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship and through her participation in the Minority Student Leadership Program.

Dr. Holz presented a Trailblazer Award to Oshoname Olorife, M.S. ’21, who received her degree in pharmacology from the GSBMS. Ms. Olorife served as the chair of the 2021 GSBMS Graduate Students Research Forum, organized by members of the Graduate Student Association. The forum is the flagship event of the GSBMS that is planned for almost the entirety of the academic year. In response to the COVID-19 restrictions, Ms. Olorife led the GSA team to launch an innovative research forum, using a remote conferencing platform to enable participants to virtually attend research presentations and participate in those discussions. 

Dr. Nadler presented a Trailblazer Award to Kamilah Evans, M.D. ’21, who successfully and purposely blends her background in sociology and medicine to serve underserved communities. She has held leadership positions as president of Black Student Union and outreach specialist for the Amer-I-Can Foundation as an undergraduate student and continued her leadership in medical school as the Minority Association of Premedical Students (MAPS) Liaison for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), coordinating scholarships for high school students, and frequently speaking at Lehman College to help pipeline initiatives for underrepresented minorities into medicine. Ms. Evans is an emerging content creator, using her social platforms of more than 20,000 people to mentor and guide high school and college students through the medical school application process while promoting balance and mental health during medical school. She aligned her passions for advocacy and public relations by using her self-taught marketing talents to serve as the current National External Affairs Co-Chair for SNMA. She manages the external face of the largest national nonprofit serving students underrepresented in medicine, through public awareness in media and collaborations with external organizations to strengthen the voice and brand of the SNMA.

The evening concluded with a panel discussion with Drs. Etienne and Halperin, Ray T. Whitt, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, SOM house advisory dean and third-year clerkship director, who works closely with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Zuleika Cuevas, M.A., M.B.A., assistant to the vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, and award winners Oshoname Olorife and Kamilah Evans.