SNMA Students Celebrate Black History Month

February 25, 2022

Black history is American history. We pay tribute to the accolades of African Americans and honor the important contributions made to our shared national tapestry. These contributions include those to the industry of medicine. Members from the College of Human Medicine community recently spoke about Black History Month and what those contributions mean to them. 


Also in honor of Black History Month, students in the college's Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter interviewed Black physicians, faculty and administrators at the College of Human Medicine. 

These features were originally shared on the chapter's Instagram page

Renoulte Allen, EdD

  • Specialty/area of study: Student voice and its impact on curriculum and instruction
  • Role: Assistant Director of Academic Achievement at MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Hometown: Inkster, MI
  • Hobbies: Biking, basketball, and reading
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Assisting students in reaching their educational goals.
  • Advice to students: Remember your why, because striving toward your goals will challenge you at times. Reminding yourself why you decided to pursue your chosen profession will motivate you to continue to make the necessary sacrifices needed to make your dream a reality.

Reynard Bouknight, MD, PhD, FACP

  • Specialty/area of study: Internal Medicine
  • Role: Former Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine & Director of the Internal Medicine Clinic at Michigan State University
  • Hometown: Washington, D.C.
  • Hobbies: Tennis, swimming, working out and activities with my 7 grandchildren
  • Favorite restaurant: The English Inn
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Making a difference in the lives of others. Applying my scientific/medical knowledge to improve the health and well-being of others.
  • Advice to students: 1) Know who you are-learn what your gifts and talents are 2) Believe in yourself  3) Strive for excellence 4) Always do your best 5) Put the health and welfare of your patients first 6) Do something meaningful for others 7) Be a role model for others.

Cheryl Celestin, EdD

  • Specialty/area of study: Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership/30 yrs. Public Health program development, implementation, marketing, management, training, and instruction. 
  • Roles: CEO Cultural Competency Specialist & Faculty Advisor for the Unconscious Bias Elective, Former Interim Director for Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved Program and Former Outreach Specialist for Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved Program at MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Hobbies: Cooking (creating and sharing recipes), traveling (mostly within the continental US), and gardening  
  • Favorite restaurant: Savannah Blue (Detroit); The Candied Yam (Grand Rapids) 
  • What makes you excited about going to work? I look forward to interacting with students and colleagues, brain-storming ideas to enhance the work that we are doing and identifying traditional and non-traditional solutions. 
  • Advice to students: Love what you do. You can always change your mind. It’s never too late. Nurture relationships. 

Larry Charleston IV, MD, MSc, FAHS

  • Specialty/area of study: Heachade Medicine & Neurology
  • Role: Professor of Neurology, Director of the Division of Headache & Facial Pain and Director of Faculty Development in the Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology at MSU College of Human Medicine.
  • Hometown: Detroit, MI
  • Hobbies: Songwriting/music production/multi-instrument playing/singing (@neuraye on IG), workouts/sports, dancing
  • Favorite restaurant: Mission’s BBQ, Ju Sushi & Lounge (Grand Rapids, MI), Aahar Indian Cuisine (Farmington, MI)
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Opportunities and potential to add value to others.
  • Advice to students: As we continue in our pursuits, let's keep in mind what was noted by Mr. Jackie Robinson "A life isn't significant except for its impact on other lives."

Craig Emmitt Cole, MD

  • Specialty/area of study: Hematology & Multiple Myeloma
  • Role: Clinical provider, clinical researcher / investigator, and instructor
  • Hometown: Detroit, MI
  • Hobbies: I have a 150 gallon saltwater reef aquarium
  • Favorite restaurant: Manny's in Onalaska WI
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Teaching and helping patients by answering their questions either by reviewing the newest medical literature or conducting clinical trials!
  • Advice to students: I have kept this quote near me through medical school, all my training, and in my office today: " cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always."- author unknown.

Jennifer Edwards Johnson, DO

  • Specialty/area of study: Family Medicine 
  • Role: Community Assistant Dean and Associate Professor at the MSU College of Human Medicine Flint Campus, McLaren Flint Residency Faculty
  • Hometown: East Lansing, MI
  • Hobbies: Sports, wine, reading, hip hop, piano
  • Favorite restaurant: Flint: Soggy bottom bar; Lansing: Peanut Barrel; Detroit: La Dolce Vita or Cliff Bells
  • What makes you excited about going to work? The students! You inspire and challenge me to be better. 
  • Advice to students: Finding a mentor for every stage of my career changed my life. It is the reason I went FM, how I got into research and how I got into leadership. Find a mentor for every stage and for your different needs. 

Sabrina Ford, PhD

  • Specialty/area of study: Women’s Health Outcomes, African American Health Disparities
  • Role: Associate Professor, Program Evaluation, MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Hometown: Lansing, MI
  • Hobbies: Genealogy, photography, Needlework
  • Favorite restaurant: Any Steven Starr restaurant in Philadelphia or Nobu in NYC.
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Each day offers a new opportunity to use my creativity to research possible solutions to improving health in vulnerable ethnic/racial populations of women and children.
  • Advice to students: Savor each day whether it is joyous or arduous because there is always a lesson that leads to great personal fulfillment over the lifetime.

Androni Henry, MD, MMM

  • Specialty/area of study: Emergency Medicine
  • Roles: Medical Director of Quality, Safety, and Experience at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital / Emergency Physician
  • Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Hobbies: Grilling & smoking meat, tinkering with tech
  • Favorite restaurant: La Churrascaria Plataforma (NYC), The Boston House (GR, closed)
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Each day (or night) is an opportunity to improve and engineer a better, safer, more reliable, healthcare system that improves lives and our community.
  • Advice to students: Take ownership of the patients assigned to your care. Listen carefully to the history provided by patients and their loved ones, ask questions for clarification, read about their complaints and develop a recommended plan. Your recommended plan might be wrong and that’s OK. Next time, it will be better.

Vicki Johnson-Lawrence, PhD

  • Specialty: Community-based Public Health Research, Epidemiology
  • Role: Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
  • Hometown: Durham, NC
  • Hobby: Making and decorating desserts
  • Best part of work: Learning from the wisdom and love of experienced community partners in Flint.
  • Student advice: Choose the best path that works for you- there are many approaches to serving a shared mission. 

Karen Kelly-Blake, PhD

  • Specialty/areas of study: Health Services, Bioethics, and Medical Anthropology.
  • Roles: Associate Professor and Assistant Director in the Center for Bioethics and Social Justice; Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine; Chairperson of the Faculty Senate and University Steering Committee.
  • Hobbies: Painting
  • Advice to students: Say “no” to people and to work that does not uplift you nor provides you the opportunity to uplift others.

Kent D. Key, PhD

  • Specialty/area of study: Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
  • Role: Health Disparities Researcher
  • Hometown: Flint, Michigan
  • Hobbies: Music
  • Favorite restaurant: Tacos
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Engaging with community residents and groups to identify research priorities and build capacity for effective community-academic engagement.
  • Advice to students: The impact we have with community will only be as strong as the trust you build with community. Engage, build trust, and establish effective relationships with your patients, community partners, and allies.

Peter Knoester, MD

  • Specialty/area of study: Anesthesia
  • Role: Physician Anesthesiologist
  • Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Hobbies: Food, music, golf
  • Favorite restaurant: The Southerner (Saugatuck, MI)
  • What makes you excited about going to work? The diversity in patients, procedures and colleagues. No two days are the same.
  • Advice to students: Stay grounded. Find balance between your profession and your personal life. You are more than your profession. Finally, everyone is carrying around unseen wounds/traumas, including you. So may your words, actions and posture always err on the side of loving kindness.  

Wanda Lipscomb, PhD

  • Specialty/area of study: Psychology
  • Role: Senior Associate Dean for Diversity, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
  • Hobbies: Reading, sharing tea, listening to music
  • Favorite restaurant: Capitol Prime
  • What makes you excited about going to work? I am excited to see students pursue their goals to become a physician and to see the success of our students and alumni who are making a difference in the lives of their patients and communities.
  • Advice to students: Keep your eye on the prize. Surround yourself with positive energy. Do not lose sight of your dream. Remember why you chose medicine. Support one another. Use all the resources offered. Stay connected to your community. Find someone to mentor. Strive to be joyful in your journey. Remember we need you to provide medical care in the future and that your success is important.

Lisa M. Lowery, MD, MPH, FAAP, FSAHM

  • Specialty/area of study: Adolescent Medicine
  • Roles: Section Chief in the Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine, Associate Program Director IM/PEDS Residency, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Initiatives and Associate Professor Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at MSU College of Human Medicine.
  • Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Hobbies: Reading, movies, traveling, listening to music
  • What makes you excited about going to work?  I actually love interacting and caring for teenagers and young adults. I love when learners interacts with Adolescents and learn that “they are actually really cool patients to care for."
  • Advice to students: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember you are a medical student and you don’t have to “save the world”, all during medical school.

Uchebike Nwankwo, MD

  • Specialty/area of study: Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
  • Role: Direct Primary Care, Educator, Medical Director
  • Hometown: Ada, MI
  • Hobbies: Soccer, camping, reading and playing with my children
  • Favorite restaurant: Chez Olga
  • What makes you excited about going to work? The opportunity to make a positive impact on someone's life each day.
  • Advice to students: Achieving a work life balance is essential to becoming successful both professionally and personally. Also if things don't go your way today, always remember tomorrow is another day and represents a fresh start.

Ade Olomu, MD, MS, FACP

  • Specialty/area of study: Internal Medicine
  • Roles: Blanch B. & Frederick C. Swartz Endowed Professor of Medicine; Vice Chair for Research Department of Medicine; Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine; Director, Office-GAP IMPACT Program
  • Hometown: Okemos, MI
  • Hobbies: Reading, travel, and dancing
  • Favorite restaurant: Capital Prime
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Going to take care of patients, teaching medical students and residents, serving as mentors to medical students, resident and early career faculty. In addition, leading an impactful research that seeks to decrease cardiovascular risk and bridge the gap in cardiovascular care for minority and low-income populations that receive care in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in Michigan.
  • Advice to students: Work very hard to achieve your goals, but remember to make time for and actually do the nonmedical things you love doing, prioritize your mental health and don’t be afraid to seek help.

Jamila M. Power, MD FACEP

  • Specialty/area of study: Emergency Medicine
  • Roles: Physician, Assistant Professor, Lead for Middle Clinical Experience for Emergency Medicine, Lansing Community Assistant Dean
  • Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Hobbies: Video Games, spending time with my husband and bunnies.
  • Favorite restaurant: The Cheesecake Factory
  • What makes you excited about going to work? I love working with and teaching medical students and residents. Medicine is fascinating to me.  
  • Advice to students: You are entering a career of life-long learning. Take advantage of the educational opportunities you have. You may not always be able to save a life, but you are often able to impact a life.

Gayle Melissa Shipp

  • Specialty/area of study: PhD in Human Nutrition, Registered Dietitian 
  • Role: Research Associate, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Hometown: Detroit, MI
  • Hobbies: Spending time with my daughter, traveling to new places and shopping
  • Favorite restaurant: Redcoat Tavern
  • What makes you excited about going to work? I get excited when I am able to make progress within my research/work (even if it is incremental) towards increasing health equity of the mother-infant dyad.
  • Advice to students: Its never a straight path towards your goals, so enjoy the journey and take notes along the way. Also, celebrate your small successes along the way too!

Mieka Smart, DrPH

  • Specialty/area of study: Epidemiology 
  • Role: Global Educator 
  • Hometown: From Baltimore, Maryland. Living in Flint, Michigan
  • Hobbies: Painting and gardening
  • Favorite restaurant: So many favorites in Flint. Ten Fu’s curry chicken fried rice, Soggy Bottom’s grilled chicken sandwich, 501’s chipotle fried chicken and potatoes, Redwood Steakhouse’s risotto and steak tips, Churchill’s bread pudding, Blackstone’s carrot cake, Crepe Company’s pinto crepe, Tenacity’s Oinker taco…I really could go on and on. So many gems here.
  • What makes you excited about going to work? I’m excited about making sure medical students don’t lose sight of why they wanted to be doctors in the first place. Medical school is hard. It’s easy to forget what the inspiration was. Call me. I’m around to remind you. 
  • Advice to students: Even if you score the job of your dreams, you must purposefully inject peace, meaning and joy into your work. Alternatively, you risk burning out, perpetual dissatisfaction or hating your job.

Herman C. Sullivan MD

  • Specialty: Neurology, Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology
  • Role: Executive Medical Director of Hauenstein Neurosciences at Mercy Health St. Mary's, and Medical Director of the MS Clinic
  • Hometown: Wilson NC
  • Hobbies: Jazz, family, reading
  • Favorite restaurant: Used to be Charley's Crab (closed), now Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.
  • What makes you excited about going to work? Everyday, I take a bowl of medical gumbo, in that I have an admixture of administrative, clinical, and residency/medical student teaching duties that keeps things fresh and exciting. I have my own supply of filé.
  • Advice to students: Read, read, read and read some more, especially outside of the day-to-day fields of study. Humanize your education because it is compassion and empathy that will distill you as a great physician. And do not spend up when you start making money. Save, save, save and invest for the long-term.

Chioma Torres, MD

  • Specialty/area of study: Development & Behavioral Pediatrics
  • Hometown: New Orleans, LA and then West Lafayette, IN
  • Hobbies: I realize with this question that my hobbies have fallen to the wayside after having my 3rd child and finishing fellowship, but I enjoy exercising (running, peloton, crossfit), singing and music, art, traveling, and cooking.
  • Favorite restaurant: Paradise Biryani Pointe
  • What makes you excited about going to work? I enjoy learning and connecting with the children I care for, in addition to promoting their strengths and supporting some challenges in any way I can.
  • Advice to students: Celebrate each and every achievement along the way and find your support group/family.