February 2021 Edition

Were you waiting to see what groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was going to do on Tuesday? Us, too, ‘cause with a winter like this one has been so far, we don’t need six more weeks of it! Unfortunately, Phil did retreat back into his warm burrow (can you blame him?). 

Happy Black History Month everyone! More than ever, this month is a welcome time for the education and celebration of Black American culture. I encourage you to check out this New York Times article on ways to honor and learn this month. One item from the list that I am excited for is the release of “Judas and the Black Messiah", a film that focuses on the rise in power of the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, and the betrayal that led to his death at the hands of the F.B.I. I also recommend registering for the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History’s Virtual Festival which will examine the theme “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” in events open to the public scheduled throughout the month. 

Black History Month is also a time to put the lens on America with the specific aim of acknowledging and understanding our history and ongoing racial injustices around the country. On Wednesday, Adam Coy, an Ohio police officer, was charged with murder following the December shooting and death of unarmed 47-year-old Andre Hill. The pandemic has caused a disproportionate harm to historically marginalized groups.

Speaking of the pandemic, many members of our school community are vaccinated and helping to combat the virus. The good news: more vaccines are on the way, including a new one (waiting approval) from Johnson & Johnson that is about 66% effective with only one shot required and it doesn't have to be kept at mega sub-zero temperatures, so the vials will be easier to handle and able to be preserved without special equipment. 

The bad news: the vaccine rollout continues to be snarled with problems. There has been little coordination at the federal level and states were left to figure things out for themselves, with predictably messy outcomes for marginalized groups. Neighborhoods with people more at risk because of housing density or poverty-level incomes suddenly became magnets for the well-to-do who weren’t as vulnerable but who wanted the vaccine. In Dallas, the affluent went so far as to threaten to sue, claiming they suffered bias because the poor, mostly Black and Brown people, were given access first. The state threatened to withhold vaccines if they were distributed on that basis, so the city backed away from its plan to vaccinate the most vulnerable first. Then there were the folks who traveled. When Florida lowered the age for people eligible for the vaccine to 65, there were reports of people traveling down to Florida to take advantage. Florida now has a residency requirement for receiving the vaccine, but “snowbirds,” or people who live in the state only part-time, are still eligible. Across the country, public health officials are still trying to figure out if, when, and how to vaccinate farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. 

There are a few bright spots: Native Americans, some of whose communities have been devastated by the virus because of preexisting conditions and scarcity of medical staff, now have access to vaccines. The Navajo Nation in New Mexico had imposed curfews and weekend lockdowns to try to protect residents. Now, the lockdowns have been lifted so people can get to inoculation sites. In the Pacific Northwest, the Makah Tribe on the Olympia Peninsula has closed itself off from outsiders, period. As a result, the tribe has flattened its coronavirus curve.  

Some local governments are starting to consider big outreach efforts for vaccinations. In some areas, that’s meant sending out mobile units out to sparsely populated rural areas and communities where public transportation is scarce (and reliable access to a car isn’t a given). 

The response to the pandemic is just one issue of many from which to analyze through the lens of racial injustice. Hopefully, during this Black History Month you will start on a path of ongoing introspection and a commitment to anti-racism. 

By Penelope Halkiadakis
Alyssa Cornejo
Hello! My name is Alyssa Cornejo (she/her/hers) and I am a first year dental student at Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine. 

I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a minority-majority state. I chose to pursue dentistry so that I can impact families on a personal level and work with the same patients over a lifetime. My passions outside of dentistry include playing recreational soccer, going to the gym, oil painting, and embroidery. I am currently involved in the Hispanic Student Dental Association, and Psi Omega Fraternity. 

I am beyond excited to begin contributing to the Zebra Hoofbeats newsletter. I believe this newsletter promotes dialogue about culture and it allows us to take a step back and appreciate each other’s differences. It is my goal to present readers of Zebra Hoofbeats with a variety of Latinx representation through media sources, empowering stories, and personal experience.
Erica Chambers
Hi! I am Erica Chambers and I am proud to be a first-year dental student at Case Western Reserve University.

My leadership positions include Pre-Dental Committee Member within the American Student Dental Association (ASDA), D1 Leader within the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) - Dental Branch, Secretary of the Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA), D1 Class Representative within Psi Omega Fraternity, and D1 Representative for the Student National Dental Association (SNDA).

I am from Memphis, TN and, outside of dentistry, my hobbies include reading, writing, learning about different people and cultures, working out, volunteering, hanging out with family/friends, watching shows/movies/YouTube videos, outdoors activities and traveling.

I am very excited to join the Zebra Hoofbeats team and contribute to this awesome and essential newsletter. Recognizing the beauty of our differences is vital for the strengthening of our society. 

As a Black woman with Latin roots and a lover of people with a deep interest in what makes us all unique and special, I have always been drawn to people of different backgrounds. As an undergrad, I fulfilled contributory and leadership roles in many multicultural organizations. I also worked as a Resident Advisor. These experiences allowed me to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds where I was able to continue to develop my understanding of others and the world around me and appreciate the amazing outcomes that result when we all come together with our unique talents and perspectives. 

As a grad student, I am inspired to continue those actions. Consequently, I am currently involved and perform student leader roles in multiple multicultural organizations here at Case. I am also an English tutor in my spare time. I am a huge proponent of diversity because it is so awesome to witness the amazing results of people coming together. I am very excited about the opportunity to work with others who share my sentiment and to contribute to this vital interprofessional diversity newsletter.
Shirley Yee
Hello everyone! My name is Shirley Yee (she/her/hers) and I am a first year physician assistant student at Case Western Reserve University.  

It is my absolute pleasure to join the Zebra Hoofbeats interprofessional team of editors and continue the previous work of Connie and Maria.  

Just a little bit about myself, I grew up in the west side of Cleveland, which has been home sweet home.  When I am not studying, my hobbies include playing badminton, drawing/designing, and trying new foods!  

Being a first-generation child of Asian immigrant parents, it shaped my interest in diversity affairs and learning about different cultures.  In college, I became a student leader in many multicultural organizations and worked at the Confucius Institute and Center for International Studies & Programs to increase cultural humility and awareness from different perspectives.  

I believe that it is important to appreciate the diversity around us, learn from each other, provide support, and gain a multitude of experiences to become more well-rounded individuals.  I look forward to working with my fellow editors and writing pieces for the readers of Zebra Hoofbeats!
Wynette Bender
Hello, my name is Wynette Bender and I am a first generation college student. 

I attended Cleveland State University where I obtained my Bachelors of Science in biology degree with my minor in psychology. 

After graduating from Cleveland State, I began my next educational journey here at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. 

I look forward to transitioning into a competent and professional doctor whose work brings confidence and fulfillment to my future patients. 
It is with my greatest pleasure to pass on Zebra Hoofbeats to all these bright, young individuals. I know they will make this interprofessional diversity newsletter even better than it has ever been. 

I have enjoyed every single experience that I had writing for Zebra Hoofbeats---from choosing the perfect name, to finding the amazing Maria, to sharing my favorite books, and finally to creating a platform for diverse stories and voices at Case Western Reserve University. 

My lovely Zebras, please continue taking care of yourself while challenging yourself to engage, empathize, and educate.

I am so proud of everything we have done together in this past year. This was originally a newsletter for just the PA program, but I am so glad that many of us are collaborating together now. I have full confidence in the new ZH Team.

Black History Month

By Wynette Bender 

Black History Month is a month to celebrate the greatness and diversity of black individuals around the world.

I believe that Black History Month is important because understanding cultural backgrounds, cultural sensitivities, cultural relativism etc. is critical for not only for serving but understanding your future patients and how their background affects them and how that may affect your care plan as a future health care provider.

Black History Month is also important because it allows for inspiration and diversity. Knowing the background of black individuals, seeing how far we have come as a society is a breath of fresh air.

This month is not only for uplifting, celebrating, and learning about black culture but also a chance for other cultures to learn and hopefully be inspired by the path that many fought to have been paved.

In the words of Harriet Tubman, “every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world”.

Celebrate Black History Month with the School of Medicine SNMA/LMSA

SNMA/LMSA will be hosting a panel this month to highlight the experiences of some amazing physicians.

Please join us on February 20th, 2021 at 11am as they reflect on their past and present experiences while being Black Physicians in Medicine. Because black history is not only what was, but it's what is, and what’s to come. We look forward to facilitating this incredibly important conversation and hope to see you there!

Our panelists: 
  • Michael Onwugbufor MD, CT Surgery Fellow, Harvard/Mass General Hospital
  • LaVerne Thompson, MD, General Surgery, University Hospital
  • Evan Ingram, MD, Pediatrics, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
  • Kevin Edwards MD, OBGYN, Premier Health
  • Edward Barksdale, General Pediatric Surgery, University Hospital
  • Teresa Dews, MD, Anesthesiology, Cleveland Clinic
Register Here to Attend the Panel

CWRU M.L.K. Jr. Celebration Events

  • Tuesday, February 9 | 4:30 p.m.|  Power of Diversity Lecture featuring Donna Brazile. Register here for Brazile's lecture. 

  • Thursday, February 18 | 4:00-5:30 p.m. | Building Black Avenue. How Youth Voices are Shaping the Development of Cleveland’s East 66th Street. Zoom event. Register Here

  • Thursday, February 18 | 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. |"Racism Denial: The Silent Killer" presented by Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, Ph.D. For more information, please Click Here

  • Friday, February 19 | 12:30-2:00 p.m. | Advocacy 101: Virtual Workshop, "Community Organizing with Ohio Student Association & CWRU Clubs."  Register Here. 

  • Friday, February 19, 2021, 2:00-3:00 p.m. Warm Packs with a Snack. This is a limited in-person (HEC 201), and online streaming event.  More Information. 

  • Sunday, February 21 | 3:00-4:00 p.m. | Black History in Your Backyard. Register

  • Thursday, February 25 | 6:00-8:00 p.m. |  Building Bridges of Community through Poetry & Vocal Expression. Register Here. 

  • Friday, February 26 | 4:45-6:00 p.m| Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis. Register Here. 

Please plan to join the Office of Community Impact, Diversity, and Inclusion (CEDI) at University Hospital for a virtual Lunch and Learn every Wednesday in February's Black History Month. Register here for any event.

  • February 3 | 12:00  – 1:00 p.m.  Mental Health in Black and Brown Communities
  • February 10 | 12:00  – 1:00 p.m.  Health, Harm and Hope 
  • February 17 | 12:00  – 1:00 p.m.  Lessons in Addressing Community Violence. 
  • February 24 | 12:00  – 1:00 p.m.  Structural Competency and Patient Care.

National Children’s Dental Health Month

by Erica Chambers

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month!

First observed for just one day in Cleveland, OH way back in 1941, The American Dental Association (ADA) later decided to hold the first national observance of National Children’s Dental Health Day on February 8, 1949.

Recognizing how important it is that this topic get more exposure, the ADA extended this 1-day event to one week in 1955. Recognizing still its extreme importance, this one-week observance was extended to the whole month! National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) was born!

Establishing proper oral health habits such as brushing, flossing and regular dental visits early on in childhood is integral to the establishment of a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. As oral health is critical to overall health, developing good oral health habits and sticking with them is vital.

NCDHM is so necessary because the prevalence of early childhood tooth decay has increased. In fact, early childhood tooth decay is now the most common chronic childhood disease. According to the ADA, more than 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they reach Kindergarten. This must be addressed as students who suffer from poor oral health are three times (3X) more likely to miss school due to their dental pain. 

Additionally, I am sadly aware of the negative disparity in dental visits for minority groups. The prevalence of untreated dental caries among the children living in minority communities is disheartening. It hurts me to see that health insurance coverage, including dental, is significantly lower in minority communities. Exacerbating the situation is the shortage of minority dentists dedicated to improving access for the underserved in these populations and influencing policy makers to develop and approve legislations to improve the current gaps in dental service.

This knowledge is why I am passionate about being an effective channel to address these challenges and their related issues. I hope that bringing awareness to this situation will also awaken the passion in others and drive them to be effective channels of change.

Feb 3 - National Women Physician Day

by Shirley Yee

National Women Physicians Day is the day to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of female physicians. Surprisingly, it did not become a national holiday until 2017.

It commemorates the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was born on February 3, 1821 for being the first woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States in 1849.

She was a champion for the participation of women in the medical profession. Dr. Blackwell and the work of many others who have since followed her arduous footsteps have changed the face of medicine.  

It truly has been a challenging battle for equal access to medical education and opportunities within the profession. Since then, women continue to influence and enhance the practice of medicine each day.

Make sure to reach out and thank your female physicians and spread the word about National Women Physicians Day on February 3rd!

Feb 12 - Lunar New Year

by Shirley Yee

新年快乐 (Xīn Nián Kuài Lè), or Happy Lunar New Year in Chinese!  

Also known as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival, this is one of the biggest holidays in East Asia that falls on a different date each year depending on the lunar calendar (typically between January and February).  

For 2021, it will be on February 12th, year of the ox!  The 12 zodiac animals are, in order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.  Each animal represents a year and an associated personality, depending on the year that people are born!  Which zodiac animal are you?

Lunar New Year is a time for celebration and reunion of family and friends. Although customs may vary, lion dances, fireworks, and lanterns are prevalent in festivities.

Preparation begins before the New Year, with a tendency to tie up loose ends as the old year draws to a close, in order to start afresh and with a clean slate.  Red decorations, signifying good luck, and auspicious symbols are commonly seen in households.

On New Year’s Day and for the next several days, it is tradition to exchange visits and gift bright, beautiful red envelopes known as 紅包 (hóng bāo) to family and friends. They are filled with money and symbolize good wishes and prosperity for the new year ahead.  Lucky words and actions are encouraged at this time, such as 恭喜發財 (gōng xǐ fā cái) in Chinese, wishes for a prosperous year!

Feb 28 - Rare Disease Day

by Shirley Yee 

First launched by EURORDIS and the Council of National Alliances in 2008, Rare Disease Day occurs on the last day of February each year in order to raise awareness in the general public about rare diseases and how they impact the lives of patients.  

This campaign is also geared towards policy makers, public authorities, researchers, and health professionals to address the needs of those living with rare diseases. This is a very important topic because 1 in 20 people (3.5-5.9% of the worldwide population) will live with a rare disease at some point in their life, and many may go undiagnosed. This may be something that we have to address as future healthcare professionals to better understand patients.

The objective of this day is to “achieve equitable access to diagnosis, treatment, health and social care and social opportunity for people affected.”  For more information about Rare Disease Day and how to support this cause, please visit rarediseaseday.org

From Connie’s Library: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

by Connie Cheng 

For Black History Month, Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is what I believe to be the perfect book to recommend.

The title refers to an old African American belief that death allows an enslaved person’s spirit to travel back to Africa i.e. home. What I found extremely provoking was that the author was unafraid to disclose the participation of West Africans in the Atlantic slave trade. Just to let you know, this book definitely does not read like a typical novel.

It begins with Effia and Esi, who are two half sisters, born into the Fante and Asante tribes of 18th century Ghana. Each chapter of this book chronologically follows the point of view of a descendent of their family lineages. I found myself marking the page with the family tree and turning back to remind myself of the previous characters and the stories they told.

As you can tell from my last month’s recommendation, I am very fond of historical fiction novels, especially those that follow generations of a single family. Why? Because it makes you wonder how impressive it is that something some relative of yours did years and years ago put you right here right now reading this “From Connie’s Library” section of a newsletter.

I am a proud daughter of two immigrants and I cannot ignore the sacrifices my ancestors have made to lead me here. I hope this novel is able to impart some sort of curiosity into your ancestors and origins.

Alyssa’s Podcast of the Month: Anything for Selena 

by Alyssa Cornejo

Anything for Selena is a podcast hosted by Maria Garcia, who discusses her childhood and the social trials that came from growing up in both Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

She speaks of feeling whitewashed amongst her family in Mexico, but too Mexican for her peers in America. Garcia felt isolated and insecure in this dual cultural identity until she discovered Selena Quintanilla, a young Mexican-American singer-songwriter.

Selena was proudly both Mexican and American, and she was wildly popular in both cultures even though she did not learn Spanish until she was a late teen. This meant that sometimes she mispronounced words in Spanish or could not think of an English phrase. Nevertheless, Selena did not shy away from any situation. Her bubbly and authentic personality allowed her to thrive and she was someone fans could identify with.

Maria Garcia realized Quintanilla was someone she could emulate. To quote the host, “If Selena didn’t hide who she was, how could I?”
This podcast resonated with me because I grew up in a predominantly Spanish population, and although I am Mexican-American, I often felt that I was not Spanish enough. I do not speak Spanish, which makes me feel like I cannot claim my culture. I have fair skin and growing up I was often called a “gringa.” This podcast reflects that this is a shared feeling and the host’s authentic storytelling gives listeners a sense of belonging.
Anything for Selena releases new episodes every Tuesday and is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Each episode is about 30 minutes long, which makes for easy listening. In addition, every episode is released in both English and Spanish so the listener can choose the language of their choice.

Along with a retelling of the short lived yet vivacious life of Selena Quintanilla, the podcast delves into themes such as race, class, politics, and finding our place in this country.
Want to listen to more podcasts? Penelope recommends you check out the Code Switch! Black History Month playlist

From Penelope's Playlist: Tiny Desk Concert Series

by Penelope Halkiadakis

NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert series will celebrate Black History Month by featuring 13 Tiny Desk (home) concerts by Black artists across genres. The lineup includes both emerging and established artists who will be performing a Tiny Desk concert for the first time.

The Black History Month celebration will also highlight the history of Black artists at the Tiny Desk with special playlists from the archives of the Tiny Desk through weekly curated playlists from prominent figures. Featured playlist curators include Dr. Dwandalyn Reece, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Music at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture, Nwaka Onwusa Vice President and Chief curator at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and more.

Let me know which performance is your favorite!

Mental Health Resources.


Frontline Fatigue

Asian Mental Health Collective

Melanin and Mental Health

Depressed While Black

Heads Up Men


Mental Health Blogs:

The Mighty

The OCD Stories

Love and Life Toolbox


University Health and Counseling Services

Support Groups and Services

Group Therapy

Mindfulness Hour

Guided Relaxation Exercises


Yoga Breathing Exercises:



Nadi Shodhan Pranayama




Click Here If You Want to Write an Article for Zebra Hoofbeats
Diversity Affairs Page
Contact Your Diversity Affairs Reps

Shirley Yee (PA)

Erica Chambers (SODM)

Penelope Halkiadakis (SOM-UP, MPH)

Helena Baffoe-Bonnie (SOM-CCLCM)


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