Five Pritzker Students Win DAB Diversity Awards

Five Pritzker School of Medicine students earned recognition this week among the winners of the UChicagoGRAD Diversity Advisory Board’s (DAB) inaugural Diversity Awards, including honors for outstanding advocate and outstanding first-year.

Current fourth-year student Itzel López-Hinojosa won the Mary S. Debose Outstanding Advocate Award, which is named for the longtime Chicago area grassroots community advocate and activist. Frazer Tessema won the Outstanding First-Year Award, which “recognizes that you do not have to be an upper-level student to make an impact on the community.” Fourth-year students Anase Asom, Akosua Oppong, and Cody Sain were recognized as Divisional Student Awardees.

The DAB Diversity Awards are meant to recognize, honor, and celebrate graduate students from underrepresented and historically marginalized backgrounds for their campus and community contributions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Pritzker students won two of DAB’s four “specialty” awards.

López-Hinojosa, who has recently named one of three Pritzker Chiefs for 2021-2022, has made several meaningful contributions to the Pritzker and greater Chicago communities. While serving as co-president of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), she planned and hosted both the LMSA annual regional conference and the Black and Latina Women in Medicine Forum, which both focused on healthcare disparities impacting Latinx communities. As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow, she developed a curriculum for third and fourth grade students that promoted healthy eating and exercise and an empowering mentorship curriculum for high school girls living in a majority Latinx, immigrant neighborhood. Her current scholarly efforts include a study of the impact of violent political rhetoric on immigrant health with Dr. Elizabeth Tung and the development of a medical Spanish curriculum with Dr. Pilar Ortega.

Tessema has notably worked with Dr. Gabrielle Lapping-Carr in the University of Chicago Department of Medicine and Surgery to examine the link between sickle cell trait (SCT) status and trauma outcomes. According to the CDC, about 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with SCT, a gene status that can lead to sickle cell disease in children of parents with the trait. Tessema also organized and moderated a joint Student National Medical Association (SNMA)-LMSA event in February that featured a screening of the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” followed by a conversation with current congressman Bobby Rush, who represents UChicago’s congressional district and was a Black Panther in Chicago.

During her time as co-vice president of SNMA at Pritzker, Oppong developed opportunities for Black medical students to connect with Black residents and attending physicians within UChicago Medicine. She also mentored high school students from Chicago’s South and West sides as part of the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP), which aims to expose students to careers in medicine who might not otherwise have the opportunity. A member of Pritzker’s Identity & Inclusion (i2i) Committee, Oppong also worked on a committee to develop a bias reporting system to bring attention to incidences of racism and bias across the medical school and medical center.

Asom has been a prominent voting and election engagement advocate during her time at Pritzker. Ahead of the 2020 elections, she coordinated the non-partisan “Pritzker Votes” initiative aimed at getting 100% turnout among registered medical student voters. She successfully advocated for clinical students to get time off to vote during the early voting period and encouraged students to work at polling centers on election day across the South Side of Chicago. Asom had a letter to the editor titled "I Can't Breathe," sharing the perspectives of a Black trainee during the COVID-19 pandemic, published in Academic Medicine in June 2021.

A former co-chair of HPREP, Sain in 2019 helped organize one of the program’s most successful iterations of the past 15 years and helped develop a long term vision for the program. He is also a former SNMA chapter president, and during his tenure he helped plan a lecture on Black maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality in conjunction with the Harris School of Public Policy’s Black Action in Public Policy Studies group. Sain is also a former executive board member of the Washington Park Free Clinic, which serves uninsured and underinsured children on the South Side of Chicago.