Nine minority students begin studies at SIU School of Medicine


September 19, 2013

Nine minority students begin studies at SIU School of Medicine

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Nine newly enrolled minority students at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine are (from top left)  Alejandro Montoya, Shawn Curry, Jade Smith, Aishah Yanssaneh, (from bottom left) Christa Harlin, Amanda Ilag, Kristen Kirby, Sofia Candel, and Jeala Barnett.


Nine minority students in the Class of 2017 started their training in August at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

“We continue to attract a diversity of students, which helps us address the health-care needs of the population,” 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 2017 began the year by participating in a “white coat” ceremony, which welcomes students into the profession. The class has 39 men and 32 women including six African-American students.  The nine students in the class are:

During the ceremony in Carbondale, held August 16, the students received their first white coats from the President of the School’s Alumni Society Dr. James Cunnar, a family medicine physician in Naperville and a 1994 graduate. The School’s Alumni Society provided the coats.

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 34 minority students (12 percent) 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 2,550 physicians, including 241 minorities, since the first class in 1975. Its website is

Media Contacts

Karen Carlson,
SIU, 217-545-3854



Phone 217-545-8000
P.O. Box 19620
Springfield, IL 62794-9620
The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to assist the citizens of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health-care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community.


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