Students of Color Unite to Spur Change at SMU and Beyond

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Training culturally competent healthcare practitioners to improve the health of minority communities is a goal embraced by Samuel Merritt University (SMU).  A new student organization is determined to help make it happen.

The SMU Students of Color Collective will hold its first “Day of Action” on Friday, March 24 to push back against the president’s proposed budget cuts to social services and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. During the afternoon event, participants will voice disapproval of federal moves that jeopardize the well-being of low-income Americans by calling and writing members of Congress.

At the group’s March meeting, members also discussed how to best support undocumented students amid the federal crackdown on illegal immigration and rising numbers of arrests and deportations in California. They plan to find local immigrant rights organizations that can help fellow students who have been studying in the U.S. under the DREAM Act, known as DACA or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The collective launched in December to promote cultural awareness on campus and throughout the Bay Area. In addition to engaging in community service, the group is advocating that all SMU programs provide courses on reducing health disparities and overcoming cultural barriers to care.

Keshia Groves, the collective’s manager, knew she wanted to start a club for non-white students when she enrolled in SMU’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program last year.

“Historically, in institutions of higher education students of color are few and far between,” said Groves. “Sometimes there aren’t safe spaces to voice our experiences, and sometimes when we do voice our experiences they are not validated.”

Forming a campus organization to support students of color was also an idea that SMU Associate Director Diversity Che Abram had in mind, so the two women teamed up.

“I think we can do deeper work if we come together,” said Abram. “A collective voice has more power.”

Groves, who worked as a medical assistant in a cancer center for four years before pursuing her graduate degree, said she has long been passionate about bringing more minorities into healthcare professions.

“It’s a known fact that racial concordance results in better health outcomes,” she said.

Just as important, she said, is ensuring that all SMU students studying to become nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, physician assistants and podiatrists are trained to become more culturally competent providers. The University has made strides, she said, but more needs to be done.

“It’s one thing to say it,” said Groves. “We want to see a curriculum developed that addressed how culture affects health outcomes.”

In the meantime, the Students of Color Collective is recruiting students from all three campuses and their online counterparts to join the nascent group.

“We’re reaching for the stars,” Groves said.

Note: The Students of Color Collective’s Day of Action will take place on Friday, March 24th from 1 p.m. to 5p.m. in MOB 4010.  

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