Four women sitting and laughing while they listen to a speaker who is up on the podium.

Spotlight: The National Society of Black Women in Medicine

“People are meant to exist in communities” The National Society of Black Women in Medicine at NU are making that change.

Toun Olorungbemi, co-Founder & charter president of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine at Northeastern

I am a Nigerian-American university student at Northeastern, studying Behavioral Neuroscience in the College of Science with a minor in Data Science. I am the co-founder and Charter President of The National Society of Black Women in Medicine at Northeastern and a part of organizations on campus such as The Student National Medical Association, Northeastern Undergraduate Researchers of Neuroscience, GlobeMed, and Data Club. I have met so many amazing people and friends by being involved in the vibrant student life at Northeastern. I have also created lasting and fulfilling experiences serving in leadership roles.

Outside of my life at school, I enjoy traveling to new places, cities, and countries with my friends and family, especially trying unique cuisine and restaurants. I also enjoy landscape photography, creating films, and documenting my travel experiences to keep a memory archive of my most cherished travel memories.

What made you get into the field of science?

To me, the essence of science is telling the story of the natural world and the beautiful phenomena within it. My passion for science comes from my innate curiosity, I’ve always had as a little girl, to understand these beautiful phenomena and make sense of the world I was living in. This curiosity is still within me today and drives my desire to use science and research to create equitable change within the global community.

I am keenly interested in the pathology of neurodegenerative disease and intrigued by the intersections that exist between the brain, neural networks, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and information processing. My goal is to use my passions and talents to contribute to the world of research science that develops new treatments and therapies for diseases and disorders.

What are the mission, vision and goals of the organization?

The National Society of Black Women in Medicine is an organization that strives to amplify BIPOC women’s voices and provide a space where minority women have the confidence to be the leaders of tomorrow. The goal of this organization is to be a resource for BIPOC women to receive career advice and mentorship as they navigate Northeastern. Moreover, the goal of this organization is to serve as a space for women to engage in a positive environment with other like-minded women.

NSBWM currently has collegiate chapters across the United States primarily in the South. Our mission is to help expand this organization and its mission to the Northeast, as the Northeastern Chapter of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine is the 2nd social organization chapter in Boston, Massachusetts, and the East Coast!

Why is this organization important for BIPOC students in STEM?

People are meant to exist in communities, as community is where people find mentorship and support. This organization is important for BIPOC students in STEM because it connects BIPOC women to each other, professional resources, support through sisterhood, and communities within the greater Boston area. Sometimes, students may not know where to go to find these kinds of resources or may not feel represented within the spaces that already exist. NSBWM is important to serve as that community for BIPOC students.

What kinds of resources are offered to BIPOC students in STEM?

NSBWM hosts medical panels and speaker events with leading professionals in the medical field. NSBWM also provides professional resources such as workshops where students can take free professional headshots and strengthen their resumés, curriculum vitae, and LinkedIn profiles.

We also provide volunteer opportunities for members. Our organization currently partners with sySTEMic Flow — a Boston-based organization that works to bridge the gap between math literacy and stem education with BIPOC girls in the greater Boston area.

Through this partnership, members of our organization participate in various STEM leadership activities and tutoring for BIPOC boys and girls in the program. We also started an Alumni Speaker Series at our organization, where we host speaker events with past Northeastern alumni who share their experiences navigating Northeastern as an undergraduate and their professional life after graduation. We are currently working on expanding our Mentor-Mentee Initiative, which will have our mentor-mentee program to connect our members with alumni and post-baccalaureate mentors.

In what ways has this society enhanced your learning both in and out of the classroom.

By engaging in this society, the world of science has expanded for me. I have learned about the various career paths of medical professions and the many different sectors of science that exist.

Any advice for BIPOC students who are looking to enter the STEM field.

My advice for BIPOC students in STEM would be to explore your interests by gaining experience – if you think you are interested! A piece of advice I have always received is that knowing what you do not pursue as a career is just as beneficial as knowing what you do want to pursue. Experience allows you to draw the line between the two and begin to understand your likes and dislikes! I would also say never be afraid to reach out to people. People love sharing advice and words of wisdom. Peers are a great place to start, and you can also reach out to professors, faculty, and upperclassmen! You are never alone in your journey. Seek out community and create the spaces you want to see!

Sarah Sackey, co-founder & charter vice president of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine at Northeastern

My name is Sarah Sackey. I am a Ghanaian-American undergraduate student at Northeastern University. My major is Biochemistry with a minor in Health Science Entrepreneurship.

My passion for science stems from the passing of my childhood best friend from a rare disease, Niemann Pick Disease, as well as appreciating the systems of life from a molecular perspective. My peers and mentors would describe me as a true leader. I am a co-founder of the National Society of Black Women in Medicine (NSBWM) Chapter at Northeastern (second on the east coast) and have been honored by Northeastern to receive a PEAK research award.

Outside of schoolwork, I love reading Wall Street Prep Journal which explains my publication with my consulting group, fitness, and makeup/skincare. Specifically, I enjoy watching makeup tutorials and expanding my oud/perfume collection.

What inspired you get into the field of science?
I found the impact of patient care to be incredibly fascinating. From my shadowing experiences at the National Institutes of Health and volunteer work at Tufts Medical Center, I learned to appreciate the effect of personal interactions and how I could make a sustainable impact with the new treatments in place.

What are the mission, vision, and goals of NSBWM?
The National Society of Black Women in Medicine is a multi-disciplined organization that works to increase the recruitment and retention of Black women pursuing broad careers in medicine, while simultaneously promoting the advancement of those already established in these fields. We are committed to supporting current and future healthcare professionals and scientists in efforts to combat educational and professional racial inequities by promoting attainability through educational resources, unity, and mentorship.

It is important for this organization to serve as a resource to all the BIPOC women in STEM on campus. My goal is to provide niche tips and career advice, and advance their opportunities to gain solid medical experiences to enable their decision-making in choosing which career pathway is right for them.

Logo for the National Society of Black Women in Medicine

Why is NSBWM important for BIPOC students in STEM?
This organization is important for BIPOC women—serving as a double minority within a field that has a low count of us is challenging. Feeling encouraged, maintaining emotional support, and gaining access to solid career advice is a constant struggle. NSBWM serves as a tool for their success and a supportive sisterhood that enables them to achieve their goals.

What kinds of resources are offered to BIPOC students in STEM?
We offer panels featuring leading medical professionals, workshops to provide guidance on creating effective resumés and LinkedIn profiles. We host social events and activities to build and expand networks and relationships within the group.

In what ways has NSBWM enhanced your learning both in and out of the classroom?
Through the panels, I have learned more about the nuances within science fields and how career pathways can be “untraditional”. These in-depth conversations have encouraged me to explore the different routes within medicine and understand what aligns best with my goals for the future and the impact I would like to create.

What advice would you share with BIPOC students who are looking to enter the STEM field.
Here is my advice for BIPOC students in STEM:

  1. Embrace the learning curve.
  2. Emulate the process not the results.
  3. Your first level of mentors is your peers—work and support each other and great things will happen in your favor. 

Catch up with the National Society for Black Women in Science on Instagram!

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