A trio of OUWB medical students published a letter in the most recent issue of Academic Medicine — highlighting a unique way the school’s newest class was welcomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student-led project to welcome new OUWB students during COVID-19 featured in Academic Medicine
An image of a group of OUWB medical students who wrote letter in Academic Medicine
From left to right, Kala Seawright, Abiba Salahou, and Eric James.

A trio of OUWB medical students published a letter in the most recent issue of Academic Medicine — highlighting a unique way the school’s newest class was welcomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“An Innovative Way to Welcome Medical Students During This Unprecedented Time” was co-authored by Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine medical students Abiba Salahou (M2), Eric James (M2), and Kala Seawright (M4).

The letter appeared in the January issue of Academic Medicine, The Journal of The Association of American Medical Colleges and considered by many to be the most prestigious and selective medical education journal.

The letter draws attention to the work done by the trio — along with other student representatives from OUWB’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council and the Office of Admissions student ambassadors — to create the “Diversity and Inclusion Recommendation Guide.”

The 17-page directory welcomed OUWB’s Class of 2024 by providing guidance to southeast Michigan houses of worship, entertainment, restaurants, salons/hairdressers, specialty grocery stores, parenting resources, volunteering opportunities, and more.

“We really wanted to make sure that all of the incoming students have the ability to find community at a time when community has been hard to come by,” said James.

James said the students involved in the project worked to find a way to welcome students with support from Berkley Brown, Ph.D., assistant dean for Student Affairs, and Dan Kallenberger, M.S., assistant dean for Admissions and Financial Services.

“Normally, we would be interacting with the M1s and have opportunities to build relationships with them outside of lecture halls,” said James.

But, as the letter states, “This is not a normal year.”

To compile recommendations, current OUWB students were surveyed on how they went about finding their way in the community. Students also indicated if they would be willing to provide their contact information with the recommendation.

“Collectively, we received over 60 recommendations, which we compiled into a single document and distributed to incoming students in July 2020 as students began moving into the area before the beginning of classes,” the published letter states. “We also included all of the diversity-and-inclusion-related student organizations and their respective second-year leaders, so that if a needed resource was not specifically recommended, the student had someone to contact directly for help.”


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Creation of the guide may have been prompted by COVID-19, but it’s something that’s been a longtime coming, according to Seawright.

Seawright, who is from the Detroit area and earned her undergraduate degree from Oakland University, recalled her out-of-state classmates asking for help when they first came to OUWB.

“Whenever I would talk to my friends who weren’t from here, they would always need helping finding something,” she said. “This guide will help bring people into our community and help them establish roots for the next four years.”

James said the idea to submit the letter to Academic Medicine can be attributed to Robert McClowry, M.D., assistant dean of Diversity & Inclusion and assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine & Community Health.

“A lot of time diversity and inclusion initiatives don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve or warrant,” he said, noting the team also wanted to “offer our ideas for how other schools could do something similar.”

Salahou said she appreciates the opportunity to share the work in Academic Medicine.

“I’m super passionate about things related to diversity or social justice work so its really cool to see these kinds of topics amplified in a medical journal,” she said. “Hopefully, other schools across the country can emulate what we did and implement similar initiatives.”

James said he hopes the guide becomes a regular offering at OUWB.

“I’m really glad we did this because it’s not only something we can use now, during the pandemic, but it’s something we can build upon and really offer to future classes,” said James.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

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

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