UAMS Celebrates Underrepresented and Minority Students at Virtual Graduation

By Andrew Vogler

“To our graduates, today we celebrate you. We celebrate the challenges, the joy, the opportunities, the frustration, the mentors and, yes, even the long study sessions,” said Brian Gittens, Ed.D., MPA, UAMS vice chancellor for DDEI, during the ceremony’s welcome. “We celebrate everything and everyone who shaped and guided you to become the unique person that you are.”

Held May 13, the virtual event honored underrepresented and minority graduates from UAMS’ five colleges and graduate school. The mission of DDEI is to intentionally advance and leverage diversity, equity and inclusion to drive UAMS’ mission and the Vision 2029 strategic plan to improve the health, health care and well-being of Arkansans and of others in the region, nation and world.

The ceremony was also an opportunity to highlight the importance of diversity in health care, warmly expressed in a recorded message from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who sent his congratulations to the graduates, commending them on their role in improving health care in Arkansas.

Asa Hutchinson

Gov. Asa Hutchinson addresses URM graduates.

“The graduates completing the journey today to become health care professionals represent a step forward in Arkansas and our nation,” said Hutchinson. “They are increasing the diversity of our health care workforce and are moving toward a future where health care disparities no longer exist.”

UAMS executive leadership echoed the governor’s sentiments, stressing the importance of diversity in the success of health care in Arkansas.

“I have long said that diversity is our superpower at UAMS, and you are all part of that superpower,” said Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, UAMS chancellor and CEO of UAMS Health. “To add diversity and to engage that superpower requires that there be an ‘us.’ I encourage you to remember that as you take your next steps into residency, or into your new unit, your new lab or your next steps into academia.”

“We believe that the best, most effective care is delivered by a diverse team of health professionals, working together seamlessly

and valuing the unique skills and contributions of each profession,” said Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., provost and chief academic officer of UAMS. “The philosophy is no different in cultural diversity — our state is better served when its health care professionals reflect the diversity of its population.”

In addition to Patterson and Gardner, UAMS leaders offering messages of congratulations included Susan Smyth, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice chancellor of UAMS and dean of the College of Medicine; Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing; Susan Long, Ed.D., dean of the College of Health Professions; Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D., dean of the College of Pharmacy; Mark Williams, Ph.D., dean of the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health; and Robert “Bobby” McGehee, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School.

Cam Patterson

Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, UAMS chancellor and CEO of UAMS Health, sends his congratulations to URM graduates.

Messages from national minority health care leaders were also given by Mary Simmons, Ph.D., MPH, RRT, president of the National Society of Allied Health, and Sandra Bruce Nichols, M.D., FAAFP, MHCDS, senior vice president and chief medical officer of health inclusion and community engagement at United Health Group.

During the ceremony, the names and pictures of all 179 graduates were displayed for guests viewing the event virtually.

The ceremony’s keynote speech was presented by University of Arkansas at Fayetteville alumnus Derric McKisick, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Texas A&M – Commerce at Dallas, who talked about the potential each graduate possessed.

“You need to recognize that every community you touch is changed because of your presence and example,” said McKisick. “I don’t want to leave you today without considering how many transformative opportunities emerge when you recognize the revolutionary power of your example. I don’t possess the words to inspire you, your example and willingness to serve a greater cause inspires all of us.”