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Photo of African-American Students, Class of 2015
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September 13, 2011

Seven African-American Students Begin Studies at SIU School of Medicine

Seven African-American students in the Class of 2015 started their training in August at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

“Having these students here at SIU speaks well for the future of more accessible medical care in the state of Illinois and in our country,” said Dr. Wesley G. McNeese, executive assistant to the dean for diversity, multicultural and minority affairs at SIU.  “Statistically, students from underrepresented groups are more likely to practice among underserved populations and to choose the general practice of medicine over specialization.”    

McNeese, who is a 1986 medical school graduate of SIU, attributes the number of minority students to focused recruitment strategies from the Office of Admissions, increased advocacy by the School’s diversity office and networking opportunities with local minority physicians.

All students in the class of 2015 began the year by participating in a “white coat” ceremony, which welcomes students into the profession.  The class has 34 men and 38 women including seven African-American students.  The seven students in the class are –

During the ceremony in Carbondale, the students received their first white coats from the President of the School’s Alumni Society Dr. Douglas Carlson, professor of pediatrics and director of the Hospitalist Medicine division in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.  The coats were provided by the School’s Alumni Society. 

The students also received a pin made up of the words “Compassion, Respect and Integrity” from the SIU Foundation.  The event is designed to establish a “psychological contract of professionalism and empathy” in medicine.

Currently a total of 47 (16% percent) minority students are enrolled in the SIU medical school.  “Minorities,” as determined by the Association of American Medical Colleges, are the racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population and include African-American, Hispanic, Native American and Alaskan Native.

Established in 1970, SIU School of Medicine is based in Carbondale and Springfield and focused on the health-care needs of downstate Illinois.  It educates physicians to practice in Illinois communities and has graduated 2,399 physicians, including 218 minorities since the first class in 1975.  Its website is


Photo Caption:  Seven African-American newly enrolled students at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine are (front, left to right) Tris Miller, Jaleen Sims, GaToya Jones and Gaybriel Newt; (back, left to right) Shakese Hudley, Chris Simpson and Desirè Ketchandji.