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Thursday, July 29, 2021

UC Davis medical student awarded prestigious scholarship

Monique Chambers, a UC Davis medical student, has been living her life with purpose, value and commitment to her passion for health care. This past month, she was recognized for her hard work and effort.

Chambers, now in her third year at the UC Davis School of Medicine, was one of five students nationwide to receive the $5,000 Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarship at the annual meeting of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Denver, Colo. This highly prestigious award recognizes efforts by students to reduce current disparities in health care and to improve medical education and health care for all.

To receive this award, students must exemplify these characteristics and show true commitment to excellence in these fields. Students are then nominated by their school and the winners are chosen by the AAMC.

“Only a handful of medical students across the nation receive this award. The school only nominates the very best and most accomplished students,” said Claire Pomeroy, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, and the one who nominated Chambers for this award.

This past year, Chambers was a co-director of the Imani Clinic, a student-run community clinic serving the largely African American and Latino populations of the Oak Park neighborhood in Sacramento. While there, she provided basic health and preventative care to patients, and led a staff of undergraduate and medical student volunteers.

“I love working with patients and everything I do on the medical side of things, but those would mean nothing without mentorship. I think mentorship is so important,” Chambers said. “Through students that I come in contact with, I hope to reignite the burning passion and desire in them to help others.”

Chambers is also a student coordinator for Sacramento Community Cancer Coalition and works to increase awareness of breast cancer screenings and help to dispel some of the trust concerns that the African American population has with health care professionals — a cause that is very near to her heart.

“It’s always a battle to convince those people who have had such hurt and distrust with the health care system. Being a member of both the African American population, as well as the health care profession, I see myself as a conduit and hope to use this to bridge the gap between these two groups,” Chambers said. “We need to not only stop ignoring the problem, but also look for solutions and move forward in a way that helps both groups.”

In the classroom, Chambers became chapter president of the Student National Medical Association and through that, helped to institute a new course within the medical school that focuses on reducing health disparities in minority populations.

“She is a true leader here at the medical school and a great advocate and role model,” Pomeroy said. “From the first day that she walked through the UC Davis School of Medicine it was clear to me that she was a leader, as she has the core values we so value here at UC Davis.”

Since she was very young, Chambers always knew she wanted to become a doctor. She grew up mostly in a low-income neighborhood in Englewood, California, but also moved around quite a bit during her childhood. In 2009, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of La Verne with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in movement and sports science.

As she got older and her dream of becoming a doctor became closer to reality, she realized the need to provide health care for all, especially the underrepresented populations.

“Although I moved around quite a bit, one thing that was consistent across the nation was disparity in health care,” Chambers said.

Chambers used these experiences to drive her passion in providing health care for all.

“Monique has shown a real dedication beyond herself to reach out to others in making their lives better, particularly those populations that are most vulnerable,” said Shelton Duruisseau, Associate Vice Chancellor of Diversity & Inclusion at UC Davis School of Medicine. “She is truly an example for others to emulate.  I am delighted that the AAMC has recognized Monique for her leadership and commitment to building healthy communities for all.”

An awards ceremony was held a few weeks ago at the AAMC National Meeting, at which Chambers was recognized and presented with her award in front of the Nickens family and medical school leaders across the country. She was also honored at an awards ceremony at UC Davis.

But Chambers believes the true reward is being able to attend an institution like UC Davis that allows her to accomplish her goals.

“It feels good to be honored for my accomplishments, but at the same time I don’t really think of these things as accomplishments. I’m living life with a purpose that I know I was born to live,” Chambers said.

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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