Regional Conference Attracts Hundreds of Underrepresented Minority Students Interested in Medical Education

Students at medical education conference poster session

In a positive shift toward diversity, equity and inclusivity in medicine, underrepresented minorities led a surge in medical school applications and enrollment across the country during 2021. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the number of students who self-identified as Black or African American increased by 21% from the prior year and by 7% among students of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.

Increasing the number of students of color who enter and finish medical school is what the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) aims for, and its mission was clearly evident during a weekend in early October when hundreds of students gathered in Cleveland for the SNMA Region 5 Medical Education Conference.

Hosted by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and held at the Health Education Campus, this two-day immersive experience featured workshops along three tracks: medical, pre-med (college) and pipeline (high school) as well as an exhibitor’s hall and research forum for students to share their research posters.

The medical track included workshops on such topics as professionalism, wellness, health disparities and preparing for residency. Students who attended the pre-med track learned more about taking a gap year, applying to medical school and writing a personal statement. The pipeline track included workshops on how to choose the right college and tips for networking and mentorship. And because relationships are invaluable, high school students had the opportunity to participate in a speed networking event with medical and pre-medical students.

Two CCLCM students are deeply involved with the SNMA and attended the conference. Mario-Cyriac Tcheukado (‘26) serves as the SNMA/RMEC Conference Planning Committee Co-Chair and Case Western SNMA Chapter Co-President, along with Co-President Jackie Diaz (University Program, ’25). Princess Ekpo (’26) serves as a regional executive board member of the SNMA and as the regional Minority Association of Pre-medical Students (MAPS) Liaison.

“Our chapter is part of region 5, which includes Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. Each member institution gets the opportunity to host the education conference once every 15 years, and this happened to be our year!” says Mario.

CCLCM alumni also played a role in the conference. During the evening banquet on Saturday, Jazmine Oliver, MD (‘12), shared with the students some encouraging words that addressed the conference theme: “It’s Crunch Time, Sustaining Momentum While Under Pressure.”

Michael G. Knight, MD (’12), MSHP, delivered the keynote address. The founder and president of the Renewing Health Foundation, Dr. Knight is currently the Associate Chief Quality and Population Health Officer, Head of Healthcare Delivery Transformation, and Medical Director of Community Primary Care at The GW Medical Faculty Associates, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He also served as the SNMA’s 48th national president.

Six Cleveland Clinic residency programs participated in the event as exhibitors, answering student questions and offering residency advice:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health
  • Psychiatry
  • Transgender Surgery & Medicine
  • Urology

On Saturday, conference attendees had the chance to participate in several community service opportunities: volunteering at one of two homeless shelters (Haven Home and Lutheran Ministries), making greeting cards for hospitalized children or participating in a school supplies drive.

“Conferences such as this present a rare opportunity for minority students to be in a space surrounded by others who look like them and with whom they share similar goals,” says Mario. “I personally find these conferences to be tremendously important for encouraging and inspiring young minority professionals and for increasing representation in medicine and diversifying institutions.”

Photo credits: Lisa DeJong, Annie O’Neill