School of Medicine student elected to SNMA board of directors

September 07, 2022

Whitney Nichols

After being a member of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) since 2011, Whitney Nichols, MD ‘23, a medical student at the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac, has been elected to the organization’s board of directors.

Nichols said she instantly felt a connection to the organization when she saw many minority pre-health professionals for the first time within her environment.

“Especially coming from the small town I came from, there just wasn’t anything that looked attainable for me,” said Nichols. “I would say now being on the other side of that, being able to really give back to an organization that’s been really giving to me over a decade is heartwarming to be able to create that experience for another student.”

The goals of the student-run organization include supporting underrepresented minority medical students, ensuring more people of color enroll and complete medical school, educating minorities who are curious about the medical field in ways that are culturally sensitive, increasing the number of minority mentors and biomedical researchers in academic health centers.

Nichols hopes to lead SNMA in a way that reflects its mission and values. Her goals are to support current and future underrepresented minority medical students, continue to address the needs of underserved communities and increase the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.

“I’m really interested in making sure that if people haven’t heard of the organization that they get involved with us and that they help us continue to build up so that we remain a huge powerhouse in the minority community as it pertains to medicine, which we’ve been doing since 1964,” said Nichols.

The organization has a range of students who are in high school to medical schools.  
High school students can get involved through the pipeline mentoring institute while undergraduate pre-medical students can join the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) chapters held within various universities, including Quinnipiac. Medical students can get involved in particular chapters within SNMA.

Through working her way up the organization’s ladder, Nichols attained her position as a co-chair for planning the Annual Medical Education Conference, which hosts more than 2,000 pre-medical and medical students within one location.

She started in the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine chapter, where she served on the board as a pre-medical student and then served in the SNMA regional leadership program. She then applied her expertise from her previous experiences along with her network to bring her broader SNMA vision to life.

She believes increasing community engagement is key to benefit minority medical students as well as medical facilities within the local communities.

“Netter is a great school,” said Nichols. “I think I’ve got a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of great people, and I think from learning how I got here will be an opportunity for me to highlight what Connecticut has to offer to minority students to hopefully bring in a different perspective to this area.”

Nichols emphasizes how minorities should advocate for change within institutions, which is something most medical students or professionals may not consider.

“Ever since the summer of 2020 in which George Floyd was murdered, I think a lot of people started to realize how diversity was structured within and what happens as a result of that is a lot of minority students were in places in which they had to provide support to institutions, and on top of being a student, they also helped faculty, classes, or helped institutions really take a look inside themselves,” said Nichols. “It’s great for diversity, but I think it provides an extra burden for minorities that other students may not think about, especially as it pertains to being a student in school and then also being aware of things that may be considered prejudice or just having to always be a voice for minority patients.”

Nichols urges students going into the medical field to be patient with themselves.

“Growing up in an area in which I didn’t see many doctors who look like me I think gave me this idea of always wanting to make a difference,” said Nichols. “What medicine provides is that doctors have idea that they can participate in healing, but they can also be patient advocates. When I looked at other careers, I saw nothing like medicine that would allow me to really have an impact on someone’s life the way that I hope to in the future.”

Students who are interested in joining the SNMA can visit their website

“If there is anyone out there who really is looking for a family of people no matter where they are, what level they are on their journey to medicine, or if they think they’re interested in medicine, I would encourage them to reach out to us,” said Nichols. “SNMA really is a family and even though it’s a really large organization, it feels literally like home. I would just say reach out. We’d love to engage with you, connect with you and help you along your journey. Life is about connections and being connected with others, so if there’s anything I can do or we could do as an organization, let us know.”  

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