Two OUWB students “truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion” were recently recognized for those efforts during the 2021 OUWB Honors Convocation.

Salahou, Espinoza receive OUWB 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Student Excellence Awards
Student Diversity Awards 2021
Rising third-year medical student Abiba Salahou (left) and Cheyenna Espinoza, M.D. (right) were each awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Student Excellence Award in May.

Two OUWB students “truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion” were recently recognized for those efforts during the 2021 OUWB Honors Convocation.

Rising third-year medical student Abiba Salahou and Cheyenna Espinoza, M.D. (OUWB Class of 2021) were each awarded a Diversity & Inclusion Student Excellence Award in May.

The award is among the many initiatives led by OUWB’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC).

Tiffany Williams, Ph.D., director, Diversity & Inclusion, said it’s important for OUWB “to have the D&I Student Excellence Awards because it showcases to the OUWB community that our students are truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion through their actions that produce tangible outcomes and results; and not just their words.”

“Also, it shows that our students are engaged, are valued and respected for their voices and contributions,” she added.

Salahou said she was “excited” and “surprised” to learn she had earned a Diversity & Inclusion Student Excellence Award.

She said she appreciates that OUWB “recognizes and cares about diversity initiatives and are paying attention to them.”

Espinoza said she was “not expecting at all.”

Williams said the awards were well-deserved.

“(Salahou and Espinoza) are the embodiment of the type of future physicians we hope that will be leading and working within the health care system,” she said. 

“Physicians who are competent, compassionate, communicative, and practice cultural humility.”  

‘Lots of ways to get involved’

Salahou grew up in Syracuse, New York, where she went to Nottingham High School. She earned an undergraduate degree from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where Salahou said she was involved in various social justice and activism initiatives.

“That’s when I first realized those sorts of topics were the things that I really wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, learning about, and working towards,” she said.

Following her time as an undergraduate, Salahou worked as a clinical research assistant at Mount Sinai in New York. The two years she spent there opened her eyes further to the impact of inequalities, marginalized patient populations, and other socio-economic and mental health issues.

Serving as a physician will allow her to have the most impact, she said.

“Physicians definitely have the ability and capacity to serve as community advocates and to really change, not only medicine, but society as a whole,” she said.

At OUWB, Salahou is a member of the DEIC, the Mental Health and Psychiatry Interest Group, Student National Medical Association, Muslim Medical Student Association, and has volunteered in various capacities, including at the annual Health Fair at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, as an admissions ambassador, with the OUWB-Hispanic Newcomer Outreach (HNO) Mentoring program, and more.

Salahou also is one of the students behind a “call to action” plan at OUWB.  

The document was created last summer in conjunction with students at other medical schools drafting similar documents, prompted in large part by events in 2020 that led to what many have generally described as a racial awakening.

Salahou said that she appreciates that OUWB offers “lots of ways to get involved,” especially for anyone interested in topics and issues related to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

‘Service is the rent we pay for living’

Espinoza grew up in Palm Coast, Florida, where she attended Matanzas High School before attending University of Florida, where she earned an undergraduate degree.

For Espinoza, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion has “always been a passion…ever since I started volunteering in middle school.”

“My mom instilled in me that service is the rent we pay for living,” she said.

Related:

Outstanding achievements commended at 2021 OUWB Honors Convocation

OUWB Latinx mentoring group publishes paper on program’s success

Inaugural OUWB Diversity Champion cohort graduates, looks to improve community

OUWB call to action featured in Journal of Academic Medicine

As an undergrad, Espinoza said she worked a lot with underserved medical populations. She recalled a particularly impactful experience where she learned about a family that had fled Valenzuela because they feared for their lives, and arrived in the U.S. with nothing.

“The fact that we were able to help them…really pushed me to want to continue to work with people from different backgrounds and low socio-economic statuses,” she said.  

During her time at OUWB, Espinoza was involved in the Latino Medical Student Association and other initiatives, such as HNO.

She also helped OUWB develop the concept of virtual pre-interview chats to provide another opportunity for interviewees to get to know OUWB students and in particular, to provide a safe space for a discussion about the diversity and inclusion initiatives within OUWB. In 2020-21, the team presented a total of 17 optional pre-interview video chats.

“There are a lot of opportunities at OUWB for people who are passionate about diversity to either create their own projects or continue what we have,” said Espinoza, who will be starting a residency in general surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

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

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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