Students volunteer for Black Family Wellness Expo

On Saturday, March 16, members of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter at NEOMED participated in the Black Family Wellness Expo hosted by the Kent Area (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. College of Medicine students Jonas St. Fleur, M1, Justin Iwuagwu, M1, Gilbert Hernandez, M2, and Victor Akinditan, M4, all took part in this event. Jonas St. Fleur shared the following article about his experience:

Our team of medical students and faculty served the Northeast Ohio community at the Black Family Wellness Expo at the John R. Buchtel Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio. We had approximately 150 registrations that day, with around 51 organizations providing comprehensive health screenings, lifesaving skills such as CPR and AED education, infant and maternal mortality resources, exercise activities and more. The Kent Area (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated hosted this event while similar events were occurring across the country.

One of the event organizers joined the nationwide live stream to share and celebrate our achievements.

The Student National Medical Association (SNMA) table with physician supervisor and SNMA advisor William Demas, M.D., provided health checks. We learned so much about the intricacies of health care and patient education through this event. We were also able to convey the importance of health checkups and connect with pre-medical students.

Gilbert Hernandez, Jonas St. Fleur, Victor Akinditan, and Lena Grafton, Ph.D., M.P.H., CHES


High blood pressure, often referred to as a silent killer due to its potential to cause severe strokes and other cardiovascular problems, was a surprising revelation for some visitors that day! The fact that it often goes unnoticed makes it even more dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease was the leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2021, with the African American community placed at an even higher risk. My own family members had to pay the price of not knowing these consequences, which is what inspired me to take on this path in the first place. I hope the connections and education made for the visitors that day will encourage them to take their early signs of hypertension seriously, so they can begin managing and monitoring their blood pressure regularly.

“Engaging with the community enhances our cultural awareness and can lead to better health outcomes. I hope that more students can experience health fairs and learn about the needs of patients in the Northeast Ohio region. It is a valuable opportunity to help increase representation here at NEOMED.”

–Gilbert Hernandez

One visitor noticed that I brought all my first-year medical equipment and was curious about the usage of a tuning fork. In our neurobiology subject block, we just covered the Weber and Rinne test, used to assess both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, respectively. I enjoyed having the opportunity to explain the purposes of these tests because neuroscience is one of my favorite fields to discuss, and this was a unique experience for the visitor as well. My former professor and advisor from Cleveland State University, Dr. Lena Grafton, saw me there, and seeing that I am now in medical school was a great full-circle moment! We also had a chance to meet with some high school students who may be interested in applying to medical school someday. Fortunately, we were able to answer all their questions, and having us there was also important to show representation of marginalized groups in medicine.

“As URiMs (underrepresented in medicine), we can often feel isolated in our respective fields. This event allowed us to speak and connect with fellow health professionals who look like us, which was very encouraging. One of the folks we talked to was planning to organize a youth health fair, which was an opportunity for young black athletes to get physical checkups and to give them exposure to the health field. Ultimately, this event gave me insight into ways medical students and professionals can connect with various health organizations to help bring about positive change in our community while encouraging the next generation of black health care workers.” – Victor Akinditan

Ultimately, events like the Black Family Wellness Expo exemplify the power of collective action influencing positive change within our communities. As the newly elected Health Policy and Legislative Affairs Chair for SNMA at NEOMED, I hope to foster additional health-related volunteering opportunities within the community. These are issues that affect all communities or racial groups, and I welcome anyone to join us in providing health services and education. Overall, these events serve as excellent stages for making significant impacts in our communities, building trust while simultaneously learning from different cultures, and inspiring the next generation of health care providers.

“I’m glad to see all the smiling faces in the community, and it gives me determination to continue this journey.” - Justin Iwuagwu

A special thanks to Iris Mirelez and the 2023-2024 SNMA leadership for their continued support for these opportunities, and to Steven P. Schmidt, Ph.D., who made the connections within NEOMED for Roxia Boykin, RN, the coordinator of this amazing event for the Kent Area (OH) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. We are also incredibly grateful to Dr. Demas, who volunteered his time that morning to supervise and offer his advice and mentorship to us!

-Article submitted by Jonas St. Fleur, a first-year student in the College of Medicine

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