Sasha Ray Awarded SNMA Future Leadership Program Fellowship

Sasha RaySasha Ray, a second-year medical student, has been awarded the Future Leadership Program Fellowship by the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) for her outstanding leadership skills and her work on a national leadership project while attending medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). SNMA is the nation’s oldest and largest organization advocating for minority medical and pre-health students.

The Future Leadership Program (FLP) Fellowship has a competitive application process and offers its fellows opportunities to “develop leadership skills, receive mentorship from national SNMA leaders and engage in personal growth.”

Sasha is a Little Rock native who attended Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. She then attended Hampton University for her graduate career before joining the UAMS College of Medicine.

“Being an SNMA FLP Fellow was a big deal for me,” said Sasha, “I hope to build myself as a leader who is capable of serving SNMA because I truly believe in what it is that we do.”

Since as young as she could remember, Sasha has always wanted to be a physician. “I can remember distinctly that I borrowed scrubs to go as a physician for the career day in my elementary school,” she recalls.

The moment when she realized that she is destined for medical school came when she was shadowing a physician here at UAMS. During a surgical procedure for a hand infection, the attending physician turned around, looked at Sasha in her eyes and said, “let me know if you think you’re going to faint.” The brisk incision was followed by the excited exclamations from Sasha and other observing resident physicians. “You belong here,” the attending physician said noting her enthusiasm as the surgical site was packed. “It takes a special person to do this. We LOVE this stuff.”

However, her road to medical school was not without obstacles and challenges. “There was a lot of self-doubt and frustration that came from knowing you can do your best to be a great candidate and still not being accepted,” said Sasha. To gain a better perspective, she attended the 50th SNMA Annual Medical Education Conference, during which she met physicians telling her that the communities need her to reach her goal.

She also faced financial hardships both in college and in medical school. “That forced me to become incredibly resourceful as I pursue medicine as a career,” remarks Sasha, “and it really made me understand what it meant to sacrifice for something.”

Despite all the obstacles, the fascination and excitement of the sciences behind how human body functions continue to push her through medical school. “I will say there have been numerous times throughout this process that I have had to choose medicine again, that is, continue to pursue it,” said Sasha. “You choose medicine every day when you study until you’re exhausted; you choose medicine when you feel you are underappreciated and yet managed to go the extra mile – you focus on the positives instead of what you have sacrificed.”

In addition to the studies required by medical school, Sasha is actively pursuing research in trauma and orthopedic surgery. She is mentored by Christopher Stewart, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with OrthoArkansas and has hopes of developing a project looking at the analysis of early weight-bearing of patients suffering from lower extremity fractures. She also works with M. Katherine Kimbrough, MD, a trauma and critical care surgeon at UAMS on surgical shadowing and research.

Beyond medical school, Sasha is interested in a residency in surgery, potentially orthopedics. She is also involved in the community with her work with the Student National Medical Association and as an early childhood reading tutor. “I hope to continue to work in the community particularly around the issues of early childhood education and natural and sustainable practices,” she said. “I will continue to work with SNMA and other pipeline programs to increase the application, successful matriculation, and graduation of more Black physicians.”

Sasha will be recognized as the FLP Fellow at the National President’s Luncheon at the Annual Medical Education Conference in Atlanta, GA, in April 2017.