Leading the Way for Black Medical Students at AUC
Keren-Happuch Ikechi-Konkwo, Class of ‘25
Black Medical Student Association
Born in Nigeria, Keren-Happuch Ikechi-Konkwo, Class of ’25, was inspired as child by her physician father, who practiced general medicine at a Nigerian mission hospital. “I became interested in the idea of bringing free healthcare to underserved areas, and decided to choose medicine—a field with few Black women physicians.”
Now a fourth-semester student at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC), she is planning her future career as a physician while making time to join a campus organization — the Black Medical Student Association (BMSA) — to meet and support other medical students like herself.
Support and mentorship on campus
After graduating with a degree in biology and chemistry from Delaware State University, a historically Black college, Ikechi-Konkwo was already familiar with AUC because her sister was a student there. ”I liked the idea of having my sister there for support, but I didn’t have to worry—the support from faculty and students was amazing. During my studies, I soon found joining a campus organization offered not only support, but there are lots of options to meet students of different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and gender identities. Besides AUC feeling like an inclusive environment, it’s excellent preparation for working with patients.”
Encouraging Black students to become doctors
While at AUC, Ikechi-Konkwo was motivated to join the Black Medical Student Association (BMSA), whose primary mission is to provide academic, social, and professional support for Black medical students and act as a service organization to address the health needs of the community. Accordingly, the organization aims to educate the medical student community on issues of minority health and the elimination of racial/ethnic healthcare disparities. “I wanted to be with other Black students who had similar experiences.” Ikechi-Konkwo managed to balance her studies, yet reserved time to participate in activities with the BMSA, as well as meet with her mentor, a former BMSA member. She is currently the historian and social media manager of the 120-member organization.
Events, initiatives, and plans
“We’re a busy organization with several events and initiatives every year. We have an active e-board, promote study halls with tutors, and have an end-of-the-semester celebration for members. Each semester, we have at least two speakers—usually AUC graduates or Black AUC students who talk about their experience in clinicals. When possible, we participate in Community Action Day with the Surgery Interest Group and AUC faculty, and we work with the New Start foster care group on the island to expose children to careers.”
Additionally, the group partners with National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA), a professional organization in Sint Maarten that offers advanced vocational education for students who want to further their education in the local community.
This February, the BMSA plans to host a cookout to celebrate Black History Month with African American and African cuisine, a talent show and a Med Talk with speakers. In June, they’ll commemorate the Juneteenth holiday with a campus celebration.
“AUC campus organizations are the place to expand your leadership experience, meet other students who have similar goals, and create lifelong professional relationships. I’m honored to be part of an organization doing important work to educate students about diversity, and health equity, while bringing Black students together. We hope students will join BMSA to plan amazing things for the future.”
Joining a campus organization at AUC allows you to meet other students who have similar interests and goals. Learn more about AUC’s clubs and organizations here.