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Students/Faculty News Rylan Gray February 02, 2024

Dean Andrew Butler, CDS Chair Kathy Nugent, Salma Santiago, Associate Dean Melanie Hart, BMD Director Ted BertrandDean Andrew Butler, CDS Chair Kathy Nugent, Salma Santiago, Associate Dean Melanie Hart, BMD Director Ted Bertrand

Salma Santiago, a senior in the UAB B.S. in Biomedical Sciences program was selected as the winner of the 2023 SAHPD Student Leadership in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Award from the Southern Association of Health Professions Deans at Academic Health Centers.

The SAHPD award recognizes students pursuing a degree in the Health Science profession who exemplify leadership and promotion of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Recipients of this award are acknowledged for their exceptional potential as an impactful leader in healthcare.

 "I feel extremely honored to have been chosen for this award," said Santiago. “It makes me proud that others can see and value what I'm doing.”

Santiago received recommendations from BMD Program Director and Professor Ted Bertrand, Ph.D., as well as Health Services Administration Associate Professor Geoffrey Silvera, Ph.D. She was chosen to represent the School of Health Professions by Dean Andrew Butler.

“It is wonderful that Salma is a recipient of the 2023 SAHPD Student Leadership in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Award,” said Bertrand. “Salma’s commitment to academics, leadership, and community service activities and success embodies the intent and scope of the award.”

An Albertville, Alabama native, Santiago first attended Snead State Community College before transferring to UAB in the Fall of 2022. In a short amount of time, she has been able to make an impact as a scholar, while also becoming active at UAB.

Santiago managed to earn a spot on the UAB Presidential Honors List with a 4.0 GPA, while simultaneously being involved in many different programs and organizations at UAB. She is a member of UAB’s TRIO Academic Services, a student services program whose mission is to provide academic and personal support to help participants be successful as they pursue their educational goals at UAB. After first joining the program as someone looking for tutoring, Santiago recently became a tutor and peer mentor, offering her knowledge and patience to her fellow classmates, after noticing a need for BMD tutors.

Santiago is also a member of the UAB Transfer Student Organization. Their goal is to support transfer students in their educational journeys through developing and promoting meaningful events, opportunities of engagement, and creating a sense of belonging. Being that Santiago is a transfer student herself, she wanted to use her experience to help others.

“I understand the adjustment of transferring and getting adjusted to a fast-paced and in-depth coursework, so anyway I could help, I knew that's what I wanted to do,” said Santiago. “Outside of the classroom is also an adjustment because you must make new friends in an unfamiliar place, so it’s nice to be able to talk to transfer students, share my experience, and offer support wherever I can.”

In addition, Santiago is also a member of UAB Trailblazers, where she serves as a first impression of UAB to prospective and admitted students, playing a vital role in assisting in the recruitment of students to UAB and their college decision process.

“Since joining the team, I have noticed I have gotten a lot better at public speaking, which is something I really wanted to improve because I know as future healthcare professional, I’ll have to be able to explain things and properly communicate to be able to better serve my patients.”

If her schedule wasn’t full enough, Santiago also is a member of the UAB Health Equity Leadership Academy. Directed by Geoffrey Silvera, Ph.D., the Academy provides intensive training in cultural competency, communication, and leadership skills, preparing graduates to be leaders in their field.

“It’s a pleasure to have students like Salma in the Health Equity Leadership Academy,” said Silvera. “She strongly exemplifies the transformative properties of education and its potential to positively impact societal challenges like health equity. Her leadership around campus is a testimony to her desire to be of service to others.”

Santiago says many people have helped her along the way but was sure to mention Tyler Wright, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB BMD program, as someone who was very instrumental in her progress as a mentor.

“I’ve had Dr. Wright for many of my classes since my first semester at UAB and he has always been very understanding, and always available for his students,” said Santiago. “He even wrote me a letter of recommendation for PA school so I’m very grateful for that.”

A member of the UAB Pre-PA Association, Santiago became Vice President of the organization in Spring of 2023. Their mission is to disseminate information about what PA's do, where PA's fall in the umbrella of healthcare, and the admission's process when applying to an accredited PA program.

“I got involved in the Pre-PA Association because I knew it was what I wanted to do,” said Santiago. “UAB has always been my number one choice for the PA program, and I’ve been able to talk to many PA students and learn so much more about the profession, which let me know it was the right place for me.”

Santiago was recently accepted into the UAB PA program and will be starting in the Fall.

“When I graduate and finish PA school, I’d like to go back to my hometown of Marshall County and serve those under Medicaid because I’ve been a Medicaid recipient my entire life,” said Santiago. “I want to take what I’ve learned and serve my community.”


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