Nation’s oldest organization of Black medical students convenes in Philly

The Student National Medical Association's 2019 Annual Medical Education Conference drew more than 2,200 attendees. (Abdul Sulayman/The Philadelphia Tribune)

The Student National Medical Association's 2019 Annual Medical Education Conference drew more than 2,200 attendees. (Abdul Sulayman/The Philadelphia Tribune)

This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod has been on a mission to positively impact the health of others.

He has collaborated with CF Charities to provide free oral health screenings, vision care and physical health screenings to underserved children, served as an ambassador for the American Association for Cancer Research and raised more than $40,000 for cancer research. And on Thursday, he offered encouragement to the more than 2,200 medical students and prospective physicians who attended the Student National Medical Association’s annual Medical Education conference.

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“Maybe it was a family member who survived breast cancer, maybe its lack of access to health care across the globe, perhaps it’s a personal experience where a physician impacted you, or maybe its being the first to find a cure for a disease — whatever it is, allow your reason to motivate you during every step of the way,” he said.

“Live your life in service to something greater.”

The Super Bowl champion spoke about his work with CF Charities, which has helped about 2,500 school students from Camden, New Jersey, and his hopes of expanding the intiative across the country.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod talks with Gabriel Feliz, the president of the Student National Medical Association during the 2019 Annual Medical Education Conference (Abdul Sulayman/The Philadelphia Tribune)

McLeod was the keynote speaker for the association’s conference, which continues for the next four days.

The event highlights topics ranging from leadership in health care, health policy, health disparities and activism in underserved communities.

The Student National Medical Association is the oldest student-run organization focused on the concerns of black medical students in the United States.

The conference comes as Texas Tech recently announced it decided to eliminate race for its medical school admissions. The Student National Medical Association partnered with the America Medical Student Association, Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association and Latino Medical Student Association to issue a joint formal response. The organizations are concerned with the outcome of future admissions for underrepresented minority applicants and fear that the decision could have damaging effects on the health of communities of color.

“We wholeheartedly support any initiatives that increase diversity,” said SNMA President National President Gabriel Felix.

“We really do urge institutions to use diversity in the medical school admissions process because we know that students who are from underserved areas who are underrepresented in medicine are more likely to go back into those communities and provide quality care. We are very adamant that admissions criteria should include that.”

After decades of efforts to increase the ranks of African-American doctors, blacks are still underrepresented in the nation’s medical schools.

The proportion of medical school students who identified as Black rose from 5.6% in 1980 to 7.7% in 2016, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Student National Medical Association has been working to increase the pipeline of clinically culturally competent and socially conscious physicians. The organization has pipeline programs such as the Pre-medical Minority Enrichment and Development initiative where members act as mentors to pre-medical undergraduates and post-baccalaurate students to help increase the medical school matriculation rates of underrepresented minorities. (215) 893-5747

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