It was a historic day when Ujima Inc. awarded scholarships to three Western University of Health Sciences students during its inaugural Ujima Scholarship Fund Award Ceremony held at the Pomona, Calif. campus Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013.
WesternU student scholarship winners were College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific students Ludine McWhinney, DO ’14, and Fisayo Nwachukwu, DO ’17, and College of Allied Health Professions student Jeremy Aryee, DPT ’15.
WesternU students are the first to benefit from the fund, which was established in 2010.
Ujima Inc. is a nonprofit organization created to improve health outcomes in underserved and underrepresented communities.
“”The mission of the scholarship fund is to increase the number of African American health care professionals in order to improve cultural sensitivity in the field of health care,”” said Ujima Inc. founder and CEO Alexis Dotson.
Dotson started Ujima after noticing a decline in the number of African American students from WesternU performing health screenings at the annual Black Culture Festival held at the Pomona Civic Center Plaza. Following one of the festivals, Dotson heard from a WesternU student that many African American families simply couldn’t afford a private medical school education.
Her response: “”They’ve been helping us for all these years, now it’s time for us to help them, and so I had the idea to create a scholarship fund.””
Second-year doctor of physical therapy student Jeremy Aryee said being awarded the scholarship is a big relief because it gives him a financial cushion.
“”Not only do I feel more empowered receiving this scholarship, it represents who I am as a whole, and that African American students can successfully pursue professional health care degrees,”” he said.
Beverly Guidry, EdD, WesternU Vice President for Enrollment Management and University Student Affairs, and College of Allied Health Professions Dean Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA, participated in the ceremony. Eric G. Walsh, MD, MPH, Director and Health Officer for the Pasadena Public Health Department, was the keynote speaker. His message validated the need for culturally sensitive access to healthcare.
“”To experience this vision come to fruition by awarding the first scholarships to WesternU students affirmed that determination and dedication, with community support, is a winning recipe for success,”” Guidry said. “”Our WesternU students were honored and very appreciative of this community effort and the award.””
Ujima is the third principal of Kwanzaa. It means collective work and shared responsibility for the village.
“”We chose the name Ujima because this is a community-based scholarship fund,”” Dotson said. “”We are relying on the community to fund the scholarship. Once these students complete their training, they have agreed to practice or volunteer in the African American community.
“”The idea is that the community provides support to these students. Then, they return to the community ready to assist the African American community address our health crisis. The students who were awarded have a keen understanding of, and first-hand experience with, the necessity of providing culturally sensitive health care.””
Dotson said once the Ujima Scholarship Fund becomes self-sustaining at WesternU, the University will be named its flagship chapter. The long-range goal is to establish chapters of the fund at other medical schools until there is a chapter on the campus of every medical school in the country.
“”Wherever there are African Americans seeking advanced degrees in health care, we want to be there to lend our support,”” she said.