As SNMA turns 50, UNC chapter wins big

UNC Student National Medical Association (SNMA) co-presidents Thayne Dalrymple and Yolanda Paylor share their excitement about winning regional and national honors.

As SNMA turns 50, UNC chapter wins big click to enlarge UNC SNMA Co-Presidents, Yolanda Paylor (left) and Thayne Dalrymple. Photo by Hannah Crain

by Hannah Crain -

“When I arrived at UNC, my first impression of SNMA was that it was so welcoming,” says third-year medical student and UNC SNMA Co-President, Yolanda Paylor, who plans to specialize in Family Medicine. “The organization truly cares about the people it represents.”

Founded a half-century ago by medical students at Howard University and Meharry Medical College, SNMA began as a subdivision of the National Medical Association. Today, with a member list of more than 6,000 premedical and medical students, residents, and physicians, the organization advocates for decreasing the health disparities gap within minority communities, supports increasing the number of minority students matriculating into the medical field, and helps to develop culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.

“SNMA encourages increasing diversity in medicine,” Paylor says. “Although SNMA promotes increasing diversity in the medial field, we welcome all those who share our commitment to service and are in support of our mission.”

Third-year medical student and UNC SNMA Co-President Thayne Dalrymple, who plans to specialize in Pediatrics, felt welcomed as soon as she was invited to interview at the School of Medicine. The night before her interview, UNC SNMA hosted an interviewee dinner to answer questions about the university and ease any pre-interview jitters. This is just one of the few recruitment events that the organization hosts.

“For me, it’s important to feel that you’re valuable – that you’re at a place where your academic and emotional needs are supported,” says Dalrymple. “SNMA and our advisors in the Office of Special Programs provide an alternative place where we know that we’re important.”

UNC SNMA strives to create a family environment, providing medical students a support system as they deal with the stresses of medical school and navigate the challenges that come with medical education.

“We want to make sure everyone in SNMA knows they have a family at Carolina,” continues Dalrymple.  

UNC students who are a part of the Student National Medical Association
This spring the UNC chapter traveled to the national SNMA conference in Washington, D.C., and celebrated the organization’s fiftieth anniversary. While there the UNC SNMA group received not one, but two awards: Regional and National Chapter of the Year, in recognition of their hard work and accomplishments from the past year.

“We originally set the goal of wanting to win the regional award at the beginning of the year,” says Dalrymple.  “We never expected to receive an award on a national level as well.”

UNC SNMA has always worked diligently to serve the mission of the organization. Along with the caring support UNC SNMA shows its own members, the group does a variety of service projects, including helping their undergraduate students who are preparing for a medical profession. Each fall an SNMA member is matched with a student from one of the five Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) chapters that they support to mentor the undergraduate throughout the year  in an effort to assist with career-path preparation. UNC SNMA also sponsors an MCAT scholarship for a deserving MAPS member who has shown leadership and drive to pursue a career in medicine. It was Dalrymple’s personal experience with MAPS that in fact led to her involvement in SNMA.

A few other SNMA service projects focus on educating local children about health sciences, inspiring healthy lifestyle choices, and sparking an interest in medicine. UNC SNMA continued its work with their Zumba Girls Program in which middle school students are taught Zumba dance and given nutrition lessons on how to make healthy choices. They also continued to host the annual national SNMA pipeline programs, including the Youth Science Enrichment Program (YSEP) for elementary students and the Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP) for high school students. UNC SNMA completed their pipeline programming by implementing their very own middle school component called the Middle School Therapeutic Enrichment Program (MSTEP). And for the Christmas season, as always, UNC SNMA sponsored disadvantaged families in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-Durham area by collecting gift donations and hand-delivering presents to each of the families in time for Christmas day.

Another significant accomplishment this year for UNC SNMA was hosting the SNMA Region IV Medical Education Conference.

“Our members planned the weekend long conference from start to finish,” says Dalrymple. “We hosted over 150 high school, premedical and medical students from all over the southeastern United States.”

“Everyone’s hard work really made the event a huge success,” says Paylor.

Paylor and Dalrymple are quick to point out that the efforts of SNMA – the actions that earned the honor of national chapter of the year – were not their own, but rather the result of the collaborative work of the executive board of 26 people that put on the programming for the year.

“We have a great chapter here that is very passionate about serving  the community and that’s committed to not only supporting one another but to reaching out to other students within our medical school and beyond,” says Dalrymple. “We believe that it is this collective mindset that paved the way for our regional and national recognition.”