OUWB students promote awareness of gender disparities and inclusion in medicine


Noora Neiroukh

The home to OUWB, O’Dowd Hall.

Two medical students at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) recently published an article, “Medical Students and Issues of Social Change: Gender Inclusion in Student Organizations,” in an effort to diversify the medical student organizations.

Abiba Salahou (M3) and Eric James (M3) are co-authors of the article. According to Salahou and James, the original intent behind the intervention described in the article began with the concern of the executive leadership board for many organizations being predominantly male-dominated. The intervention, therefore, was a tangible way to address the concern.

“We wanted to help foster a sense of intentional inclusion to try and combat some of the gender disparities that end up following upward through the residency matching process and the composition of physicians practicing those specialties,” James said.

“Medicine is a field dominated by white males, but [that] doesn’t mean our student interest groups’ leadership has to be that way,” Salahou said.

Salahou and James shared their personal experiences that drove them to raise awareness about inclusion.

Salahou: “As a Black Muslim Woman living in America, I became aware of my identity and “otherness” from a young age. In undergrad, I learned how to navigate predominantly white spaces, and as I became more interested in medicine, I quickly realized that I would be entering a rather homogeneous field. So, the desire to challenge the cis-white-male norm has always been there for me.”

James: “When I was shadowing, some patients would talk to me while ignoring the female physicians who were the ones that were treating them, and that experience has really stuck with me.  Although I haven’t witnessed it firsthand, anecdotally many times, male physicians will be introduced as Dr. (name), while female physicians will be introduced by their first name, and personally, I try to avoid that by always introducing any physician as Dr. (name), even when I am interviewing a patient without them.”

Their passion in recognizing and educating others about these issues do not just end here; they are both members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and Curriculum Committee, and each of them is also actively engaged in activities that promote awareness of a variety of healthcare disparities such as cultural, racial and socioeconomic.

Outside of school, Salahou works as a trained crisis counselor and Mental Health Peer Advocate. She plans on pursuing a career in child and adolescent psychiatry and hopes to challenge the ways in which systemic racism has barred access to quality healthcare for minority and immigrant communities to continue her passion about social justice issues.

“I am passionate about activism as a whole, and I plan to do more work that focuses on socioeconomic, racial and cultural disparities in healthcare,” Salahou said. “I believe these issues are extremely important and something that all doctors should be concerned about, regardless of their specialty.”

James is a peer tutor, the vice-chair of the Standing Committee for LGBTQ+ Affairs in the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association (AMA), as well as a part of some research projects in different fields. He also frequently volunteers with Lighthouse of Michigan at their emergency food distribution sites.

He is interested in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine, and hopes to see and make changes regarding the issues of health disparities within the field.

“Healthcare is a really sensitive field, and we see first-hand where a lot of different disparities result in different outcomes, like having access to preventative care and basic medications like insulin, where the complications of uncontrolled diabetes can be very severe and life-changing,” James said. “I think we all hope to be able to impact at least some of those areas throughout our careers and hopefully see a shift towards a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system.”