The University of Michigan Medical School’s Student Diversity Council is a forum that promotes diversity, equity and inclusiveness, as well as accessibility and fairness, across the organization’s medical campus. It was created a decade ago to ensure that students from different communities are supported and can thrive in the school and extracurricular spaces of the faculty of medicine.
UM fourth-year medical student Erica Jaiyeola Odukoya served as board co-chair with Oluyemi Olumolade from 2020-2021 and recently presented the many areas of counseling to the American Medical Association. ChangeMedEd 2021 virtual conference. Each year, this event emphasizes “the training [the] next generation of physicians ”, while promoting innovation as they are encouraged to“ tackle challenges proactively ”.
Here, Odukoya is talking to Michigan Health Laboratory on UM’s Student Diversity Council, as well as its innovative presentation.
Amplify diversity, equity and inclusion for medical students through education, activism and awareness
Talk about the UM Medical School Student Diversity Council and why its work is so important.
Odukoya: The big picture is that I am part of a huge team of student leaders. There were 14 of us and our goal has always been to represent the entire UM Medical School community. The diversity council is a collective effort that I have had the honor to serve. My presentation was just one of the few conferences that helped us share the importance of our work.
We focus on all students, but aim to amplify the voices, experiences, and needs of people with marginalized identities, including people with disabilities (who may be visible or invisible), as well as Asian Americans. and Pacific Islander, LatinX, LGBTQIA +, Pansexual and Poly, Black and Indigenous Communities. This, of course, is not an exhaustive list. We are really focused on everyone who needs our support.
Our work on the board primarily supports a culture and environment that shows these students that they belong to UM’s medical school and, on a larger scale, to the field of medicine. While the council has been around for over 10 years, there was a turning point after the murder of George Floyd, followed by various social justice movements across the country. At the end of May 2020, student leaders involved in groups such as the Action Committee, Black Medical Association, Caring for communities of color and many others came together and pushed for more to be done to address social trauma both inside and outside UM medical school.
Many students came together to restructure the diversity council to include three main tenants, namely education, awareness and activism. These are the main pillars of our work. When social trauma arises – even outside of our medical school, for example – it is important for us to collaborate with internal leaders to communicate with our educational community.
Traditionally, we’ve had an executive council made up of 14 student leaders, then a general body made up of student organizations that tackle our foundational pillars. We meet once a month throughout the year and work together to identify the needs of our students.
How does the Student Diversity Council work in tandem with the leadership of the medical school and / or other departments on campus?
Odukoya: We work regularly with the Office of Medical Student Education and are sponsored by the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion, better known as OHEI. We meet with both leaders and representatives of these offices to better align with each other’s goals and work together to achieve our collective efforts.
We also have Michigan Medicine staff and faculty leaders who help us every step of the way. And their support is immeasurable. Currently these people are Oluwaferanmi O. Okanlami, MD, MS, and Karri Grob, Ed.D., MA
In addition, we work with the student council of the faculty of medicine, since we meet with them once a month to know their goals, while promoting collaboration. We often communicate with the deans of the school to ensure that we are acting as an effective liaison on behalf of the student body, while meeting their various needs.
You presented this year at the American Medical Association conference. Why was this content so important?
Odukoya: It was a labor of love in many ways. The presentation was titled “Implementing a Vertical Integration Model with Sustainable Administrative-Student Collaborations to Transform Health Systems Science to Amplify Diversity, Equity, Inclusiveness, Accessibility and Justice “.
Over the past year, the Diversity Council has delivered 13 abstracts and five oral presentations at many different conferences on a variety of topics including wellness, burnout, mental health, best practices in health education and other subjects. And that’s just a testament to the fact that we really hope to make changes through our work.
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I even recently spoke with some Columbia University students about setting up a council like ours, which really shows the level of interest in this topic.
At this year’s ChangeMedEd 2021 virtual conference, the heart of our presentation was based on how we used a business model to create our structure. Because medical education is new to other disciplines, the integration and exchange of ideas and resources from other fields is not uncommon.
While traditional health science systems are based on one-sided transmission of knowledge, this prevents students from making meaningful contributions to their own learning. These systems are also inherently built on racial hierarchies, prejudices, prejudices, and social constructs of things like race, gender, and sexual orientation.
However, UM’s Student Diversity Council is designed to amplify the voices of our medical students by creating cohesive and trusted structures. By serving as an effective channel to leadership and other instrumental parts, the council aims to dismantle social constructs in medicine and medical education, while creating a learning environment where all students can thrive.