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Black Student Association Celebrates Outstanding Students at 2024 Awards Ceremony

The 2024 Black Student Association honorees include: From left, Mecca Gordon, Joshua Miller, Ranesha Orlanda Pringle, Woodi Woodland, Samantha Calhoun, Nia Marshall, and Jasmine Walker (not pictured here).

Seven distinguished student leaders from across the colleges at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center were honored at the 32nd annual Black Student Association (BSA) Awards Ceremony Friday, February 23, in the Student-Alumni Center.

LaTonya Washington, MBA, UT Health Science Center College of Medicine alumna and chief medical officer for Methodist North Hospital, was the keynote speaker. “I was incredibly excited and honored to have had the opportunity to serve as the keynote speaker for the UT Health Science Center Black Student Association’s awards ceremony,” said Dr. Washington. “I felt it crucial to highlight the significance of transparency and accountability for increased institutional efforts to foster diversity in the student and medical workforce.”

This year’s honorees include:

College of Dentistry: Nia Marshall

An alumna of Cornell University, Nia Marshall earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and society. At Cornell, she held leadership roles in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and served as captain of the Varsity Women’s Basketball team, earning the title of all-time leading scorer. Marshall will graduate in May with the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from UT Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry. Prior to becoming a student at UT Health Science Center, Marshall completed a Master of Health Administration degree at The Ohio State University in May 2020. While completing her master’s degree, she distinguished herself as a National Association of Health Services Executives Student Case Competition semifinalist, showcasing strategic thinking and leadership abilities.

At UT Health Science Center, Marshall served as a research fellow from December 2020 to October 2021. Focused on advancing oral health care, she assessed the knowledge, awareness, and attitude of teledentistry among dental students and dentists. Identifying barriers, Marshall proposed improvements to enhance access to oral health care services in rural and urban communities.

Marshall’s commitment to health care extends beyond the classroom to mentorship and community engagement, evident by her role as a mentor for Diversity in Dentistry in Memphis, guiding underrepresented high school students through resume workshops and leadership exercises. She has also mentored local middle- and high school students in the “Our Future is Now” program, emphasizing health care career opportunities and important life values.

College of Dentistry: Ranesha Orlanda Pringle

As a student in the dental hygiene program in the College of Dentistry, Ranesha Orlanda Pringlehas demonstrated outstanding professional and community service. She is a native of Memphis and decided early that she wanted to pursue a career in dental hygiene. Prior to becoming a student at UT Health Science Center, she completed her prerequisite coursework at Southwest Tennessee Community College and will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene.

During her time as a student in the Dental Hygiene program, Pringle has exhibited effective leadership and service. She has volunteered with dental service events, such as Give Kids a Smile, the Mid-South Mission of Mercy, and countless health fairs. Pringle has a passion for mentoring those who are beginning their journey in health care and currently serves as a mentor to underclass students who are navigating the rigorous demands of professional education. Additionally, she serves as a mentor for local middle- and high school students who are exploring various careers in health care through the UT Health Science Center’s “Our Future Is Now” program. While working part time to support herself, Pringle has maintained an exceptional grade point average at UT Health Science Center and was awarded the Chancellor’s Diversity Scholarship for 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.

After graduation, Pringle plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health. She would like to create solutions for some of the social determinants of health, especially those impacting children and veterans.

College of Graduate Health Sciences: Samantha Calhoun

A native Memphian and first-generation college graduate, Samantha Faith Calhoun is a registered nurse and clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Memphis. Calhoun will graduate from College of Graduate Health Sciences in May, earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree in nursing science. Calhoun exemplifies the spirit of breaking barriers and paving the way for others.

In addition to her academic and professional achievements, Calhoun’s commitment to making a difference extends beyond the classroom. Her dissertation research was inspired by the struggles of Black men in her family and her patients with hypertension. Her study examined Black men’s shared decision-making preferences in the Mid-South. Calhoun and her husband serve the Mid-South through their non-profits, STS Enterprise, and Simply Faith, a women’s faith coaching ministry.

She hopes to inspire those around her and be a vessel for positive change, whether as a nurse scientist, leader, educator, or simply as a compassionate human being. Calhoun’s self-published book, “Simply Faith, A Brown Girl’s Book of Encouragement for Nursing School: I Already Quit So You Don’t Have To,” is set to be released in 2025. Calhoun hopes to inspire others to use their gifts to make a difference.

College of Health Professions: Joshua Miller

Joshua Miller is a graduating student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the College of Health Professions. Miller’s dedication and zeal for the field of physical therapy have not only enriched his academic pursuits, but also significantly contributed to the department’s ethos of community service and professional development. His efforts in tutoring Orthopedics I and II have not only demonstrated his mastery of the subject, but also his willingness to uplift his peers academically.

Miller’s involvement in student-centric activities, such as conducting interviews and leading tours, has greatly enhanced prospective students’ experience, and understanding of the physical therapy program. His role in these activities underscores his commitment to the growth and reputation of the department. His active participation in Clínica Esperanza highlights his commitment to serving the community and addressing health care disparities. His volunteer work with Memphis Rox further illustrates his dedication to community service.

His interest in research and residency programs reflects his desire for continuous learning and specialization in the field. His successful application to a highly competitive and prestigious clinical education experience is a testament to his exceptional capabilities and the high regard in which he is held by the professional community. Miller’s academic achievement is further evidenced by passing the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist examination. This, coupled with his distinction as the top performer in Kinesiology, showcases his exceptional academic abilities and his deep understanding of the field. Miller’s achievements and contributions not only make him a standout individual, but also reflect the Department of Physical Therapy’s commitment to fostering outstanding professionals in the field.

College of Medicine: Woodi Woodland

As a fourth-year student in the College of Medicine, Woodi Woodland will graduate with the Doctor of Medicine degree in May. She is a summa cum laude graduate of UT Knoxville, where she majored in chemical engineering. As a member of Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, she has distinguished herself in academic excellence, leadership, and service.

As a representative of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education Action Plan Board, Woodland played an important role in the College of Medicine’s recent accreditation cycle. She has served as the director of communications for the Global Surgery Institute, secretary of the Student Orthopedic Association, and service and outreach chair of the Otolaryngology Student Interest Group. Her appointment to serve as the 2023-2024 student trustee on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees is a testament to her leadership as she represents students across the state with her voice, and with her vote as a member of the Education, Research, and Service Committee.

Woodland’s passion for mentoring developed from not having much guidance in her personal journey to medicine. As an ambassador, peer mentor, and MPOWER mentor, she has been able to provide support and direction for medical students. Her service extends to the community through participation in mentoring programs at the Boys and Girls Club, and volunteering with Memphis Street Health’s Room in the Inn for families seeking shelter. She has also been involved with Student National Medical Association service projects and Clínica Esperanza – the student-led primary care clinic for the underserved, uninsured adult Latinx population of Memphis.

After graduation, Woodland will begin the next phase of her journey to becoming an otolaryngologist. She hopes to use her passion for treating the underserved to create ancillary clinic sites in underresourced areas and bring resources to better treat patients. She desires to pursue her academic interests by teaching and serving on boards and committees that promote excellence in education. She plans to continue providing mentorship and guidance for students pursuing professional degrees and careers, inspiring others from minoritized communities.

College of Nursing: Jasmine Walker

Jasmine Walker is set to graduate from the College of Nursing in May, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with a concentration in nurse midwifery.

During her time in the DNP program, Walker has maintained membership in the BSA and has guided other students to join and work in the community. Throughout the doctoral program, she has demonstrated a passion for changing policies that affect the inequities in health care, especially in maternal mortality of Black mothers. She has done health policy work on maternal morbidity and has applied to attend a national policy conference that will improve her ability to get the message to lawmakers. Walker has a passion for equity and excellence in the care for Black mothers. She has learned how to advocate for her patients and her profession and uses her voice to bring much needed change to the care of Black women and mothers.

College of Pharmacy: Mecca Gordon

Mecca Gordon is a fourth-year Doctor of Pharmacy student who demonstrates leadership, professionalism, and a commitment to patient care. In May, she will graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Gordon completed her pharmacy prerequisites and studied Human Nutrition at the University of Kentucky. In 2022, she completed an internship at Gilead Sciences as a Global Patient Safety Intern.

During her time at UT Health Science Center, Gordon has been an effective leader as demonstrated by her role as the current BSA president. She previously served as the BSA vice president. In her leadership roles, Gordon has helped many student pharmacists while modeling professionalism. Gordon was awarded the University Scholars Diversity Scholarship in 2020-2021, 2021-2022, 2022-2023, and 2023-2024, as well as the 2021-2022 Bobby Thomas Inclusivity Endowment Scholarship.

With a passion for helping others, Gordon works as an intern at Kroger and St. Francis–Bartlett. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a nontraditional pharmacy position. Her current interests include social determinants of health, health education, pharmaceuticals/biopharmaceuticals, and independent community pharmacy.