Medical school hosts 60th Student National Medical Association Region IV conference

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a large group of people sit on risers for a photo
More than 120 medical and premedical students from across the Southeastern U.S. and Caribbean attended the Student National Medical Association Region IV Medical Education Conference at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon on Feb 3. Photo by Richard Marcum

Mercer University School of Medicine hosted the Student National Medical Association Region IV Medical Education Conference at the Macon campus Feb. 2-3.

The Student National Medical Association, or SNMA, is a student 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.

The conference offered medical and premedical students the chance to attend educational seminars, personal and professional development workshops, and networking events with medical professionals. The theme for the conference was “L.E.G.A.C.Y.: Leading, Empowering, Growing, and Cultivating Young Physicians IV the Culture.”

Faith Harris, second-year medical student and Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) Macon SNMA chapter president, coordinated the events in collaboration with Gia Jackson, second-year medical student and School of Medicine Macon SNMA chapter vice president, and Keridah Bouadou, undergraduate student and president of Mercer’s SNMA Minority Association of Pre-medical Students.

Harris has been involved in SNMA since she was an undergraduate student at Mercer.

“SNMA is extremely valuable for underrepresented pre-medical and medical students because it offers them opportunities, guidance and encouragement in the often intimidating journey to medicine,” she said. “As we all know, lack of representation is a big part of health disparity for marginalized groups. That is why it is imperative and wonderful that MUSM and SNMA have worked to provide a conference for future physicians to come together to learn to advocate for each other and our future patients.” 

The weekend kicked off on Feb. 2 with Every Mind Matters, a mental health-focused community service event at the Murphy Felton Tindall Boys & Girls Club. Andrew Benesh, Ph.D., LMFT, interim director of the School of Medicine’s Master of Family Therapy program, and Kedrick Williams, DHA, MPH, senior rural health project manager at the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, led the workshop.

About 30 participants ages 5-16 played games with SNMA volunteers. Then, Dr. Benesh and Dr. Williams talked about mental health awareness and tips on self-regulation. Three participants won giveaways of two tablets and a laptop, and each attendee received a Polaroid picture to capture the moment, a journal and a goody bag to take home.

The day-long conference on Feb. 3 featured professional development sessions, including clinical skills workshops led by Kenya Jones, clinical simulationist on Mercer’s Columbus campus. The weekend culminated in a evening gala hosted in the Presidents Dining Room, the highlight of which was keynote speaker Krista Mincey, MPH, DRPH, MCHES, assistant director of the School of Medicine’s rural health sciences Ph.D. program.

Organization of the event was supported by the medical school’s Underrepresented in Medicine (URiM) Department: Wanda Thomas, LaQuanta Hamilton, Vanessa Wallace-Lonon and Terri Walker.

“Hosting the regional SNMA conference is more than an event. It’s a celebration of diversity, unity and the unwavering commitment to excellence in medical education,” said Thomas, chief diversity officer at the School of Medicine. “For our URiM students, it symbolizes a platform where their voices, experiences and aspirations are not only heard but embraced. This conference is an opportunity to share insights. It is a moment to inspire, connect and pave the way for future health care that reflects the diversity of our community.”

Kendra Moore, a fourth-year medical student on Mercer’s Columbus campus, serves as SNMA Region IV director. In addition to this regional representation, Veronica (Prince) Mize, a fourth-year medical student at Mercer, is the president of the SNMA national board of directors.

“MUSM’s mission is to educate physicians and health providers for rural, underserved Georgians, and the SNMA is a leader in focusing on the population we were created to serve,” said Jean Sumner, MD, FACP, dean of the School of Medicine. “We are very proud of these outstanding students who lead SNMA on a local, regional and national level. At Mercer, we say ‘Be the Bear,’ and the MUSM students are accomplishing just that. They are committed to improving care for all, and we are honored to host this important event.”

About SNMA Region IV

The Student National Medical Association is the nation’s oldest and largest student organization focused on the needs and concerns of underrepresented minority medical students. Representing the largest membership segment of the SNMA, Region IV serves the students of academic institutions in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as the Caribbean islands.

About Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus)

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School opened additional four-year M.D. campuses in Savannah in 2008 and in Columbus in 2021. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School’s primary teaching hospitals: Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master’s degrees in preclinical sciences and family therapy and Ph.D.s in biomedical sciences and rural health sciences.