Diversity Research and Scholarship

SekipatientThe University of Virginia School of Medicine seeks strong applicants from diverse backgrounds without regard to age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family medical or genetic information. We are committed to the recruitment of a diverse student body that will make a variety of contributions to their class, the school, and to medicine as a whole. Currently, approximately 46% of the student body is women, and approximately 16% (20% of the first year class) are from groups
that are underrepresented in medicine. We encourage applicants to be themselves throughout the application process.  UVA also has an active Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center, and the SOM has an organization for LGBT and ally medical students known as qMD.

We have organizations that provide student-run activities. These include the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and the National Network of Latin American Medical Students (NNLAMS).

South African Student’s Important HIV Work

Lufuno Mavhandu has traveled thousands of miles from rural South Africa to the University of Virginia School of Medicine so that she can make a difference in her country’s battle against HIV. Lufuno Mavhandu, who grew up in the small village of Muduluni, is conducting research at UVA as part of an important collaboration between the Myles H. Thaler Center for AIDS and Human Retrovirus Research in the School of Medicine and the Department of Microbiology at South Africa’s University of Venda. Her work with her UVA mentors – HIV experts Marie-Louise Hammarskjold, MD, PhD, and David Rekosh, PhD – will allow the 31-year-old to obtain her doctorate from the University of Venda, commonly called Univen, in the spring.
A longstanding relationship between UVA and Univen has allowed for a powerful exchange of knowledge and ideas between two institutions on two different continents in two different hemispheres. “You come and gain experience, then you go back to your university and give back to the university,” Mavhandu explained. “You have to teach other people what you have learned – the techniques that the University of Venda doesn’t have but the University of Virginia can offer, as well as what the University of Venda has that the University of Virginia doesn’t have. So it’s a give-and-take relationship. A true exchange of ideas.”

Using Plants to Battle HIV

Mavhandu’s time in America has required her and her family to make sacrifices. Traveling far from home for her training has often been difficult for the wife and young mother. But those personal sacrifices have been trumped by the importance of her work and what it could mean for her fellow South Africans.
Mavhandu is working to develop a bioassay to test for drug resistance in the HIV virus’ subtype C. That subtype is the most common in South Africa, Asia and India but has been the subject of less research than the subtype most common in the United States.
The bioassay will allow scientists to screen compounds from South African plants that are thought to have anti-HIV replication abilities. “There are so many plants that are capable of helping people who have low immune systems,” Mavhandu said. “Anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-viral or anti-HIV – those plants are known especially by the traditional healers, so it helps us as scientists to have a molecular understanding.”

UVA’s International Efforts

When Hammarskjold and Rekosh came to UVA in the 1990s, they had not intended to become involved in international education, but now it is a passion. “We’re very much involved in training people from South Africa because we really believe South Africans should find South Africa’s solutions,” Rekosh said. “We would hope we can train scientists there who can start dealing with the drug resistance problem when it starts to become a problem.”
The relationship between UVA and Univen – a collaboration that spans several departments and centers at UVA – has brought about many great friendships, including a strong bond between Mavhandu and her mentors. “She is,” Hammarskjold said, “like a daughter to us.”

Career Plans

Once she has completed her doctorate, Mavhandu hopes to obtain a research position at Univen so that she can continue the work she has under way. “I think for me to be there I can make things change,” she said. “I don’t know how yet. I don’t know if that is possible. But the little input I can make, it will make our department, especially, to grow. I know I have influenced it to be what it is now.”
“There is strong research going on there, but there are still some things we are still learning, as we are in a developing country,” Mavhandu said. “But I trust that in a couple of years, our university will have the best.”

Video Winner – Tracy Kovach

Medical Student Tracy Kovach Wins MCAT Video Competition.  This competition facilitates the creation of educational tutorials for concepts that will be tested by the new MCAT 2015 exam, which includes human behavior, social sciences, inequality, and diversity.
Congratulations to Tracy Kovach, School of Medicine Class of 2015, for being chosen as one of 15 winners of the Khan Academy Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Video Competition. This competition — a collaborative effort among the Khan Academy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) — facilitates the creation of educational tutorials for concepts that will be tested by the new MCAT 2015 exam, which includes human behavior, social sciences, inequality, and diversity.
Kovach’s video covered amino acid structure, protein structure, and calculation of an amino acid’s isoelectric point. As a winner, Kovach has accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco, Calif., for a one-week training camp. She will also become a member of the Khan Academy team, an organization whose goal is to change education by providing free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Go to Tracy’s YouTube Playlist

The video below is an example of her wonderful, educational work:
“I can’t express enough how honored and thrilled I am,” Kovach said. “I feel like this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become involved in a world-renowned organization and to represent UVA’s School of Medicine.” After the training, Kovach will continue to make instructional videos for the Khan Academy.
The competition-winning tutorials will be available this fall through both Khan Academy and the Pre-Health Collection of the AAMC’s MedEdPortal iCollaborative, a free, searchable online repository of instructional materials for teaching pre-health curricula. Once again, congratulations, Ms. Kovach, for helping educate those who are training for a career in the healthcare profession!