The Black Student Association at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center held its 29th annual Awards Ceremony and Presentation Friday, February 26. Due to the pandemic, the virtual event was broadcast on the university’s YouTube channel.
Started in 1992, the event celebrates and honors the accomplishments of African American students at UTHSC. It is an important tradition for the campus and reflects the diversity and inclusion mission of the university and its students.
Altha J. Stewart, MD, senior associate dean for Community Health Engagement and associate professor of psychiatry in the UTHSC College of Medicine, was this year’s keynote speaker. She also serves as chief and director of Social/Community Psychiatry for the college and director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth. During her address, Dr. Stewart encouraged honorees to be confident about the next phase of their lives, but to always remember why they decided to become a health care professional initially.
“During the tough times, it’s what’s going to keep you going, doing the hard work on the frontlines, handling those tough cases, working the long hours, and sacrificing a whole lot personally,” she said. “It is also what provides the satisfaction that reminds us that we are doing good work, caring for those in need, managing the systems where their care is provided, and conducting the cutting-edge research to keep improving health care delivery.”
Seven students were recognized at this year’s awards ceremony. Each received a plaque in recognition of their achievements.
College of Dentistry
A native Memphian, Jones is an alumna of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she was an active varsity tennis player and team captain. During her summers, Jones participated in UTHSC’s Tennessee Institute for Pre-Professionals (TIP) program, which she credits for guiding her toward pursuing a career in dentistry. In May 2016, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with a minor in chemistry. After college, Jones gained experience working in the science field for a year before applying to the UTHSC College of Dentistry. During that time, she became involved with the Determined to be a Doctor Someday program, founded by UTHSC College of Dentistry alumna Christina Rosenthal, DDS, MPH.
As a volunteer, Jones mentored many pre-dental minority students in the Memphis area. Throughout her time at UTHSC, Jones has demonstrated leadership through her involvement with student organizations and the community. In 2019, she served as the secretary for BSA. She was also the community service chair for the Student National Dental Association and led many public service efforts, including health fairs, food drives, and book fairs. In addition, she served as the social media chair for the Student National Dental Association.
Upon graduation, Jones plans to be an associate at a dental practice in Memphis, where she can continue to mentor and support students, who aspire to be health care professionals.
College of Dentistry- Dental Hygiene
Noelle Wright is an outgoing, hardworking, motivated dental hygiene student who grew up in Nashville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Community and Public Health from Middle Tennessee State University. Since beginning her dental hygiene studies at UTHSC, Wright has worked diligently and was awarded a Colgate Hygiene scholarship from the National Dental Hygienists’ Association, of which she is a member. Wright is also the recipient of the Tennessee Diversity Scholarship. Additionally, she mentors and tutors incoming dental hygiene students.
Wright has participated in social justice activities on campus, and has volunteered in the preparation of food-relief boxes through the CoD partnership with Christ Missionary Baptist Church and the Mid-South Food Bank. During the pandemic, she has participated in the production of a series of videos designed to support a character-building curriculum for Shelby County school children learning remotely. She is an active volunteer of Memphis Beat the Odds and has been a volunteer at the American Red Cross since 2012.
Wright plans to move to Dallas after graduation to pursue her career and start a non-profit organization for inner-city Black girls centered around building self-esteem, helping with education, and promoting leadership.
College of Graduate Health Sciences
Ryan Blue became a registered nurse to gain clinical experience and fulfill her natural passion for helping others. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Arkansas in 2014. After graduation, Blue completed an RN residency program, specializing in critical care nursing. While working at the hospital, Blue’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. While caring for her mother, Blue realized she wanted to do something more. “My mother’s breast cancer care constant involvement provided me with the patient and caregiver perspective of a woman with breast cancer struggling with depression while taking adjuvant endocrine therapy,” Blue said. “This was when I discovered that treating the disease and providing patient care was not enough for me and that something was missing.”
She decided to pursue a PhD in Nursing Science in the College of Graduate Health Sciences. Her research focuses on mental health issues of Black breast cancer survivors in relation to breast cancer treatments and therapies. Long-term, Blue plans to obtain her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in psychology and mental health and work as an independent researcher in an academic institution.
College of Health Professions
Keiona Blackman is a second-year student in the MS Clinical Laboratory Science (MSCLS) program. She graduated from Mississippi University for Women in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, and is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.
Faculty have found Blackman to be an extremely hard-working student, who has sought to excel in the MSCLS program. While enrolled in the MSCLS program at UTHSC, Blackman has held a full-time position as a quality control chemist at PMC Biogenix in Memphis. In addition, she volunteered with First Baptist Broad Church to feed the homeless on numerous occasions. Blackman is also a mentor for Reach Memphis for high school sophomores. The mentors provide students with necessary tools to be able to succeed in college and in life. During the pandemic, she has helped students in Shelby County Schools adapt to the virtual learning process and made herself available to front line workers by providing childcare. Blackman also helps the elderly at her grandmother’s senior living facility.
College of Medicine
Anderson is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in molecular cell biology.
She is the recipient of numerous honors and scholarships, including the Dr. Alvin H. and Alva J. Crawford Medical Scholar Award and the NMA Region III Student Scholarship. Anderson has been honored twice by The Bluff City Medical Society, having been named its Most Outstanding 2nd– and 3rd-Year Student. In addition, she is the recipient of the Abbas and Lynn Kitabchi Endocrinology Scholar Award for her clinical research in endocrinology. Anderson’s research has been presented both locally and nationally.
Committed to serving the community, Anderson is a mentor for local high school and undergraduate students through the Determined to be a Doctor Someday program and the Student National Medical Association’s Dream BIG conference, a free community outreach held yearly for middle and high school students.
College of Nursing
Kristin Fitchpatric will graduate from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program in May. Although her DNP program is rigorous and requires most of her time, she has found time and ways to advocate for her community and her profession.
In April and May 2020, Fitchpatric volunteered in New York City in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fitchpatric not only provided much-needed ICU skills and expertise, but she also noted the inequity of death and severe illness associated with people of color. Upon her return to Memphis, Fitchpatric was a presenter at a community-wide forum sponsored by her college, speaking to more than 250 people about her experience, the racial inequalities she witnessed, and social justice.
Fitchpatric has a deep commitment to diversity and seeks opportunities to learn in situations where she knows she will be the minority.
Darren “DJ” Barrow, Jr.
College of Pharmacy
Darren “DJ” Barrow, Jr. is a fourth-year Doctor of Pharmacy student, who demonstrates academic excellence, professionalism, and a commitment to community service. He will graduate with his Doctor of Pharmacy Degree in May. Barrow earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Rhodes College in Memphis.
During his time at UTHSC, Barrow has been an effective leader, serving as the 2020-2021 executive chairman for the College of Pharmacy’s Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA), as well as the SNPhA Chapter President (2019-2020). He is also a member of Rho Chi, Phi Lambda Sigma, and the Black Student Association.
As president of SNPhA, Barrow led the chapter in winning the Overall Chapter of the Year Award and the Chauncey I. Cooper Excellence Award for the Large Chapter of the Year during the SNPhA virtual national convention in November 2020. In 2019, he was inducted into the IMHOTEP Society for recognition of his various leadership roles in his college and student organizations. Barrow is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Diversity Scholarship and the Tennessee Diversity Scholarship, as well as the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Bobby Thomas Inclusivity Endowment Scholarship.
Barrow is dedicated to community service, as evidenced by his participation in various service events throughout the Memphis area, including Mustard Seed Tutoring, flu shot clinics, and providing vital screenings at numerous health. After graduation, he plans to go into practice at Enclara Pharmacia, a hospice pharmacy in Memphis.