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New SGAEC President Aims to Serve with Intention and Enthusiasm


Fourth-year pharmacy student Leah Burns is excited to return to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center campus as the new president of the Student Government Association Executive Council (SGAEC).

“The pandemic changed our student learning experience and how we interact with each other,” Burns said. “Last year was long and isolating for many of us, but also came with a lot of lessons. UTHSC’s first-year students haven’t had the opportunity to interact in person, so one of the things I’m most excited about is coming together and making that one of SGAEC’s top priorities. It’s all about having a sense of enthusiasm.”

Leah Burns

As SGAEC president, Burns also serves as the student representative for the UTHSC Advisory Board. “It’s exciting to be able to express the views of students across all the colleges,” she said. “Several campus organizations are represented on the SGAEC, so to share student feedback with the board and vice versa is great. UTHSC is very student-centered, and it shows.”

Burns considers Huntsville, Alabama, home. Her father served in the Air Force, so she has lived in many places. She completed her undergraduate studies at Auburn University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She chose UTHSC to further her education because of its affordability, thanks to the College of Pharmacy’s expanded regional tuition program. The program expands its regional tuition rate to pharmacy students living out of state within a 200-mile radius of the college’s instructional sites in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville.

Another bonus for Burns was the college’s dual-degree program offerings. “The programs line up with my aspirations,” said Burns, who is completing her master’s degree in business administration while she pursues her Doctor of Pharmacy degree through the college’s PharmD/MBA Dual Degree program. “The goal is to work as a clinical pharmacist in a large hospital for a few years after that and eventually hospital administration.”


Words from the 2021-2022 SGAEC Members 


“I chose UTHSC because Memphis is one of the best places in the country to learn medicine. We are supported and encouraged by the administration to pursue aspects of medicine that interest us and have a great facility, CHIPS (Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation), to learn clinical skills in a simulated environment.”

Yucera Salman, co-president of UTHSC Unite and a fourth-year medical student


“Tennessee has been my home for years, and something about going to dental school in the state where I grew up and intend to practice felt special to me. I wanted to learn in the community that I one day would serve. UTHSC’s clinical focus and the opportunity to address the needs of the surrounding community were additionally a priority for me. Another big factor in choosing UTHSC was its class size. I loved the thought of feeling like our class was a family, which it truly has become.”

Alicia Johnson, College of Dentistry representative and a third-year dental student


“I chose UTHSC to pursue a PhD degree because of the diverse research training program and collaborative research environment, which is a common platform linking clinical-translational research, and networking opportunities with world-renowned scientists in the field.”

Roshan Kumari, College of Graduate Health Sciences representative and a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics


“I chose UTHSC because of the long-lasting impact it has on the community. It has a lot of resources and it is very affordable to attend. The quality of the education that you receive here is immeasurable.”

Chance Arnold, College of Health Professions representative and a first-year physical therapy student


“UTHSC was the most affordable option and I wanted the opportunity to learn how to better serve my community, as I am a Memphian, and I envision myself practicing medicine in Memphis, once I achieve my goal of becoming a physician.”

Gene Lamanilao, co-president of UTHSC Unite and a third-year medical student


“I chose UTHSC because of the fabulous learning environment. The vast pathology and influence of the social determinants of health make Memphis an incredible place to learn how to treat the whole patient and build better systems for wellness.”

 Katherine Purdham, College of Medicine representative and a fourth-year medical student


Note: The College of Nursing has not yet selected its SGAEC representative.