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Cultural diversity celebrated at OU-COM
Food, music, dancing, fashion highlight annual event

By Richard Heck
Feb. 19, 2009

The world came to OU-COM Wednesday with its annual Multicultural Extravaganza. The event celebrates the talents and backgrounds of the university’s most culturally diverse college.

The noon event, which took place in Irvine Hall, featured singing, dancing, poetry readings and a fashion show of garments from around the world.

“Although this is Black History Month, we wanted to be more inclusive and emphasize all the multicultural aspects of the college,” said Collette McLemore, assistant director of multicultural programs. “This event shows the diversity of our medical students, and it helps them share and talk about their differences.” 

Minority students make up 27 percent of OU-COM’s current first-year class—up from 24 percent last year. OU-COM’s diversity is no accident; it reflects key priorities of the college’s mission: “embracing diversity” and “improving the well-being of underserved populations.”

According to McLemore, OU-COM integrates cultural competency training and opportunities for minority health research into its curricula. The college also offers scholarships and summer programming to increase access and success rates for both economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students.

Catalina Soto, OMS-III, who helped coordinate the event, said she wanted to remind her peers of the positive benefits of attending such a diverse medical school.

“Cultural understanding should be as important as clinical knowledge to a physician,” said Soto, who was born and raised in Columbia. “I think that a culturally competent physician has a strong social conscience, advocates for every patient, and can intimately understand and ultimately resolve many health care disparities that persist in this nation today.”

After a smorgasbord lunch of foods from around the world, the Multicultural Extravaganza began with first-year medical student Candace Moore singing the black national anthem, “Lift every voice and sing.”

OU-COM’s Step Team—consisting of second-year medical students Sherice Richardson, Liset Estanislao, Samar Kubba and Virginia Mateo, and first-year medical students Dominique Crosby, Vashti Mensah and Candace Moore—provided a lively demonstration of stepping, an expressive dance form created by African-American fraternities in the 1970s.

Other performances included readings, songs and dances from places around the globe, including Russia, Vietnam, the Middle East and India.

“I enjoy experiencing other cultures, so this was a nice way to become involved in showcasing the variety of culture at the college,” said Mensah, who helped organize the event. “Everyone had a great time.”

Proceeds from the event support its sponsor, the OU-COM chapter of the Student National Medical Association, which focuses on the needs and concerns of minority medical students.

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