Two medical students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine have been recognized for their great work in diversity, equity, and inclusion — both in and outside of the school setting.

Two OUWB med students recognized for work in diversity, inclusion, and equity
An image of the two OUWB students who won the diversity award for 2020.
Rising fourth-year medical student (M4) Kala Seawright (right) and rising third-year medical student (M3) Rafey Rehman were each awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Student Excellence Award as part of OUWB’s 2020 Honors Convocation.

Two medical students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine have been recognized for their great work in diversity, equity, and inclusion — both in and outside of the school setting.

Rising fourth-year medical student (M4) Kala Seawright and rising third-year medical student (M3) Rafey Rehman were each awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Student Excellence Award as part of OUWB’s 2020 Honors Convocation.

Given annually, the award is one of the many initiatives led by OUWB’s Diversion, Equity and Inclusion Council (DEIC).

Caryn Reed-Hendon, Ph.D., director of Diversity & Inclusion, OUWB, said the award is for students who embody OUWB’s mission of compassion, collaboration, innovation, professionalism, and excellence in the promotion of diversity in the medical school.

“The DEIC chooses the recipients in the areas of leadership, scholarly activities, and community service,” she said. “The individuals that are selected for this award are a testament to the compassion and professionalism to serve our community.”

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She added that it’s important that the recognition take place during Honors Convocation to “recognize the level of excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusion work that is both challenging and life-affirming.”

This year’s recipients both said they were humbled and honored after receiving the award.

“To receive an award for something I dedicate a lot of my free time to — making sure that people are included in all walks of life — feels really good,” said Seawright. “Diversity and inclusion is where my heart is.”

“I was extremely humbled,” said Rehman. “I’ve always had a mission to work at things I’m passionate about, and to learn that my efforts have been acknowledged really means everything to me and motivates me to keep growing.”

‘After seeing us it seemed like it was possible’

Seawright was born in Pontiac and her family moved to Oxford when she was younger. As the only African American in her school at the time, Seawright said she suddenly found herself “very conscious of my skin color.”

It would be a life-changing event, she said.

“I was very young and just felt so different than everyone,” said Seawright. “Ever since then I’ve striven to make sure that no one feels like I did.”

She became involved in student council at Oxford High School and helped with student counseling. As an undergrad at Oakland University, Seawright served as president of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students.

“We tried to get all of the students involved who were underrepresented in medicine,” she said.

Her efforts continued when she started attending OUWB. She said one of the first things she did as a then-new student was reach out to Reed-Hendon, seeking opportunities to further her commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Seawright became one of the school’s diversity ambassadors, and in her second year served as president of the Student National Medical Association, which organizes the annual Chandler Park Academy Health Fair that’s held in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Outside of school, Seawright counsels youth at her church.

But it was an occurrence at Chandler Park a couple of years ago that sticks with her most.

“I was talking to one of the young girls who said she had never really seen herself in someone like a doctor or medical student,” said Seawright.

“She was really excited to meet me and the other black female students from our school. She said one day she wanted to be a surgeon and that after seeing us it seemed like it was possible.”

Seawright said the girl remains interested in medicine and hopes to eventually attend medical school.

“It just felt really good that someone said they could see themselves pursuing medicine because I didn’t have that example when I was younger,” she said.

 

‘Motivated to care for people of all backgrounds’

Rehman also has a strong history of working with diverse populations.

The Birmingham Groves High School graduate said the reason is simple: he aims to serve all populations when he becomes a physician.

“My conviction to become a physician stems from my lifelong goal to comfort and care for others — regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status — during their most troubling times,” he said.

An image of Rafey Rehman at Future Physicians 2019. Rehman, who earned his undergraduate degree from University of Michigan-Dearborn, said he was exposed to caring for others when he was younger. That’s when one of his family members struggled with COPD and another with Alzheimer’s. Like Seawright, the youthful experience was life-changing.

“That heightened my awareness to the different types of struggles that people experience and was one of the reasons I’ve always been motivated to care for people of all backgrounds,” he said.

He credited OUWB, his peers, and the school’s professors for teaching him about the “endless possibilities that medicine has to change people’s lives.”

For example, he has been able to work with a clinic in Dearborn on a study assessing risk factors in at-risk populations for H. pylori (a common type of bacteria that grows in the digestive tract and has a tendency to attack the stomach lining).

Rehman has also worked with OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion’s Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program (FPSP), the Joanne and Ted Lindsay Foundation Autism Outreach Services (commonly known as OUCARES), and volunteers at a clinic in Detroit to serve uninsured and underinsured patients among other extracurricular activities.

It’s all preparation for when Rehman graduates from OUWB and moves on in his career.

“I’m really confident that the service experiences and medical education that I’ve gained at OUWB is going to enable me to become a physician who is able to comfort and care for patients during their most difficult moments,” he said.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

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