Six Pritzker Students Win '22 DAB Diversity Awards

Six Pritzker School of Medicine Students garnered recognition this month from the UChicagoGRAD Diversity Advisory Board (DAB), which gave out its second annual Diversity Awards. Pritzker students took home three specialty awards and three divisional awards. 

Pritzker's specialty award winners included first-year student Alicia Alexander for the In Dialogue Award, second-year student Maria Paz for the Georgiana Simpson Research Award, and first-year student Rimel Mwamba for the Outstanding First-Year Award. Fourth-year students Jorge De Avila and Cody Sain and third-year student Maria Ruiz all received divisional awards.

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 three of the DAB's four specialty awards this year and last year had five students recognized.

The In Dialogue Award "recognizes a University of Chicago conference, talk, workshop, or activity organized primarily by a student, groups of students, or students in collaboration with faculty that center on social justice issues facing individuals beyond the academic community." Alexander, a St. Louis native who completed her undergraduate students at the United States Air Force Academy, has served this year as an Admissions Liaison for the Pritzker chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), helping connect prospective students with current students and organizing panel discussions during the admissions process to help the Office of Admissions recruit a diverse class. She also serves as a co-director of the student-run Maria Shelter Health Clinic, which supports women and children in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Alexander is conducting research on the correlates between mechanisms of historical trauma and current instances of community violence in Chicagoland adolescents.

The Georgiana Simpson Research Award, named for the first African American woman to earn a PhD from the University of Chicago and the first Black woman to earn a PhD in the U.S., "celebrates the scholarly work of University of Chicago graduate students that critically engage in conversations about diversity in their disciplines." Paz early this year brought attention to language barriers in COVID-19 vaccine access through her study “Spanish Language Access to COVID-19 Vaccination Information and Registration in the 10 Most Populous Cities in the USA,” which was published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine. Paz has also collaborated with Dr. Chelsea Dorsey to investigate demographic trends in vascular surgery and co-authored a chapter for the Physician Workforce Diversity textbook on racial, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic inequities in vascular surgery. Paz, who majored in Public Health at Northeastern University before coming to Pritzker, previously served as President of the Pritzker chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). 

A Pritzker student won the Outstanding First Year award for the second year in a row. Mwamba, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and earned a degree in Global Studies from the University of North Carolina, has taken on several leadership roles in her first year at Pritzker. As Co-President of SNMA, Mwamba helped organize and put on the Black and Latina Women in Medicine Forum, served as moderator of a "Microagressions in Medicine" discussion, and helped plan and facilitate the chapter's attendance at the Annual Medical Education Conference, at which she was recognized as the SNMA Region II Member of the Year. She also serves as the Regional Research Liaison for Region II SNMA chapters. Mwamba is also a Class Representative on the Pritzker Wellness Committee, represents Pritzker on the UChicagoGRAD Diversity Advisory Board, and co-leads the Global Surgery Student Alliance group. 

De Avila, who will begin his Family Medicine residency at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Massachusetts this summer, has been deeply involved in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion at Pritzker over the last four years. His efforts have included prominent roles with LMSA, the Health Professions Exposure and Recruitment Program (HPREP), and the Pritzker Dean's Council, on which he represented his class. De Avila also helped recruit diverse classes to Pritzker and served on the admissions committee.

Sain, who was recognized with a divisional award for the second straight year, has also been a longtime contributor to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Pritzker. In his first-year alone, he served as President of SNMA, Co-Chair of HPREP, and an executive board member for the Washington Park Pediatric Free Clinic. Sain has been committed to mentoring students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine and helping Pritzker recruit diverse classes, including as a member of the admissions committee. He will begin an Anesthesiology residency at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston next month. 

Ruiz has led several prominent diversity and inclusion efforts during her time at Pritzker. As the elected Chair of the Pritzker Dean’s Council, she led a push to expand coverage of health disparities in our curriculum. As President of LMSA, she facilitated the expansion of medical Spanish curriculum for medical students and residents at the University of Chicago and led the group's creation of a COVID-19 emergency response guide in Spanish outlining resources available to Latinx communities during the pandemic. Ruiz also co-founded the First-Year Anti-Racism Reading Program.