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Inspiring the Next Generation of Minorities in Medicine

VCOM-Carolinas Student National Medical Association (SNMA) hosted a unique experience on Saturday, February 29, 2020, bringing together under-represented minority medical students and the physicians who have helped to pave their way.

The SNMA Minorities in Medicine event was designed to offer networking opportunities for current minority medical students while providing examples of the successes that they may achieve. In addition to VCOM students from the Virginia and Carolinas campuses, there were physicians and other advanced professionals from Spartanburg and the surrounding communities, as well as VCOM faculty, administration and allies in attendance.

SNMA is an organization committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students, addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians. SNMA designed this event as the first of its kind within the VCOM community.

The highlight of the event was keynote speaker Ashley Denmark, DO. Class of 2015 VCOM-Carolinas alum, Dr. Denmark is a family medicine physician, but her community work extends far beyond her medical practice.

In addition to being a physician, Dr. Denmark is a mother and a wife, a mentor, diversity advocate, social media influencer and author. In her speech, she shared her experiences and gave advice on being successful in medicine while balancing many roles.

Dr. Denmark’s husband and three young children attended the event. The family traveled from St. Louis, Missouri where Dr. Denmark practices at the Barnes-Jewish Medical Group.

Noting that only about 6% of physicians are Black and only about 2% are Black women, Dr. Denmark expressed her passion for making medical careers a viable path for minority children. Toward this end, Dr. Denmark has written a children’s book, an idea sparked when her own daughter asked, “what does Mommy do at work all day?”

Olivia’s Doctor Adventure illustrates a broad variety of possible careers in medicine through the eyes of a young African American girl. Olivia and the reader learn about different types of doctors and other health professionals and are motivated to become part of the next generation of doctors.

In her speech, Dr. Denmark emphasized the importance of minority representation in medicine. She explained that when children never see representatives from their own community in a particular career or field, it can seem that navigating a path to that career is not normal or possible for people who look like them.

Working to “normalize success” Dr. Denmark founded Project Diversify Medicine to ensure more minority individuals follow her lead by earning medical degrees and practicing in their home communities. With over 32,000 followers on Instagram, Project Diversify Medicine showcases current and future doctors of color, demystifies the medical school application process and, in the words of Dr. Denmark, encourages students to “keep going and know you aren’t alone.”

See photos from the event here:

Follow @ProjectDiversifyMedicine on Instagram.