Footprints of Representation
The Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine (CPM) class of 2025 is many things: ambitious in their pursuit of a medical career in a global pandemic; ever capable and adaptable in the various ways in which they receive lessons; and resilient both as student doctors, and as the most diverse class in recent years. That’s what CPM’s Director of Podiatric Student Engagement & Support, Carla Ronnebaum reports of her 10th year in the College’s Student Affairs department. “The College understands the value in having a diverse field of podiatric medical practitioners and has made efforts to increase our recruiting efforts to minority students,” Ronnebaum reports of this year’s rise in minority members. It’s her team that is responsible for recruiting, screening, and admitting a new class of up to 125 future physicians each year.
This year, Carla’s team welcomed 110 student doctors to campus at the end of July, with 41% reporting as a minority member– that’s twice the representation found in 2015’s incoming class. The College understands the weight of bringing diversity to the profession, and Carla knows that her responsibility is far deeper than filling each new class, “We hope that these students will add to our strong alumni base in offering socially and culturally competent, inclusive care.”
The stories that follow are those of current students that help make up the minority population at CPM, and are making strides for future minority physicians that follow:
Hamidat Momoh, Class of 2022
Recipient of the 2021 Diversity in Medicine Scholarship
“Growing up in Nigeria, I looked forward to seeing the ‘American Doctors’ who came to our family clinic quarterly for medical consults. They never stopped encouraging me to immigrate to the US for better quality medical education, while I wished, hoped, and prayed that someday I would be in their shoes to motivate the younger generation.
If anyone asked me a few months before college graduation how I felt about going to medical school, I would respond utterly terrified. I knew I wanted to be a physician, but part of me didn’t think I could make it through. Some of the schools I had researched had little to no black graduating doctors, or at most only 10 percent remaining from what they started with. Here I am now in podiatric school, fulfilling my ever-evolving dream. Did I think I could make it this far? Maybe but certainly not at this magnitude. I come from a very low-income background, but I have walked my path on the footprints of representation. Again, most times ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ “
Now in her 4th year, Hamidat organizes study groups and lab sessions with fellow minority classmates with the goal of surviving medical school together to increase the graduation rate for African Americans at CPM. She mentors other minorities in each incoming class and holds leadership roles so that others may feel motivated to be involved in these positions themselves.
Remmy Owor, Class of 2022
“Over the last year, there has been a heightened emphasis and awareness on diversity in this country. It is unfortunate that to this day, racial disparities still persist in our nation. These racial disparities are seen in every aspect of our lives especially in medicine. I believe one way to combat this issue is through the topic of ‘Diversity’. This past year I have been fortunate to start my clinical career within the field of Podiatric Medicine. I have had hundreds of patient encounters already, a good amount of these patients happen to be African American as well. A lot of the time, these patients will say things to me like, ‘It’s really good to see a doctor of color’ or ‘we need more doctors that look like you’, just to name a few.“
Fueled to bring more diversity to the field of podiatry, Remmy took on the role of President of the SNPMA at CPM in 2019, a position he held until early 2021, though he remains heavily involved. SNPMA is a club on campus that is responsible for uniting minority groups around campus academically, clinically, and socially. Remmy and his team aim to increase podiatric awareness to prospective students of color by increasing their social media presence through their new Instagram account, which has steadily grown over the years.
Moriah Letitia Peoples, Class of 2023
As a student from the west side of Detroit, I had to make an extra effort to be able to meet with physicians who were willing to give me opportunities to become exposed to medicine and it made an impact on my success, but not every student has access to the vital information about how to stay on the right path to achieve acceptance to medical school. One of the biggest challenges that I noticed is the lack of access to guidance in a place where there is so much potential. Innovating solutions designed to close the gap in communication, raising awareness on how to properly prepare for medical school, and raising the confidence in students that they can achieve anything that they set their heart and their mind to invigorates the hope in educational opportunity.
At CPM, Moriah was nominated to serve on the University’s Anti-Racism Task Force in effort to increase awareness about the issues that hinder the feelings of acceptance and equal opportunity among students from diverse backgrounds. Here, she had the opportunity to work with faculty and students of other colleges within the University to create a proposal for increasing access to opportunity for underrepresented students so that they can reach their full educational potential.
Juhi Patel, Class of 2022
“When my mother immigrated from India with $50 in her pocket, she didn’t know the language or the cultural norms that are present in this country. Yet, she prevailed and is now a medical technologist. Witnessing the challenges my single mother faced as an Indian woman in healthcare, I was inspired to represent diversity in medicine. Therefore, after appreciating the gratification individuals felt whilst receiving orthopedic care to hurricane Irma injuries, I pursued becoming a podiatrist. As I embarked on my podiatric journey, I researched the field and discovered that it was underrepresented for women and individuals of color.”
To encourage diversity as a medical student, Juhi has participated in cultural programs, women diversity programs as well as in educating underprivileged and underrepresented students in India. These students mainly stem from government schools in low socioeconomic areas where there is passionate talent but scarce resources.