Catalyst Magazine

Recognizing Diversity: University Honors Faculty, Staff, and Students for Inclusion Efforts

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Awards are presented by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to honor individual and/or group achievements in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness. The recipients serve as models of the ideals epitomized by the life and work of Dr. King. Here are the 2021 award winners:


Sandra M. Quezada, MD, MS

Sandra Quezada is leaving no stone unturned in her mission to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at UMB and beyond. In addition to her appointment as an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), Quezada is the school’s associate dean for admissions and assistant dean for faculty diversity and inclusion, serves on the UMB Diversity Advisory Council (DAC), and is a member of DAC’s Latinos Unidos @UMB affinity group.

A 2006 UMSOM graduate, she works tirelessly to promote greater diversity among the medical student body and foster an inclusive environment for students and faculty, says Jean-Pierre Raufman, MD, a UMSOM professor who nominated Quezada for the 2021 UMB Diversity Recognition Award for Outstanding Faculty Member.

“Dr. Quezada’s efforts are guided by UMB’s core values of diversity and inclusion,” Raufman wrote in his nomination. “She works to instill equitable and anti-racist policies and structures that seek to achieve equity in medicine across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other dimensions of diversity, so that these changes are sustainable and become integrated into the framework of the institution.”

In his nomination, Raufman listed the multiple ways in which Quezada impacts diversity, equity, and inclusion. Among her efforts, Quezada:

• Established and delivers required unconscious bias training to all UMSOM admissions committee members and interviewers

• Instituted reforms that have changed the admissions committee’s makeup to 42 percent Black, 33 percent white, 16 percent Latino, and 8 percent Asian

• Established the school’s Latino Medical Student Association chapter and Student Diversity Council

• Developed and directs the Medical Spanish course, which instructs students on relevant medical terminology in Spanish

• Serves as a reviewer on the Educational Content Review Committee, which seeks to reduce all forms of residual bias embedded in medical education materials

“I am most proud of bringing training to the School of Medicine that increases awareness of our biases and how we have proactively made changes in the admissions process to mitigate bias,” Quezada said, pointing out that UMSOM’s student body makeup increased from 13 percent underrepresented students in 2018 to 24 percent in 2020. “I hope this is sustainable change that will create a new baseline for us from which to continue learning and improving.”

In her role as assistant dean for faculty diversity and inclusion, Quezada aims to increase the diversity of the school’s faculty and establish UMSOM-specific affinity groups to cultivate a more inclusive environment.


Mishawn Smith is a change agent.

Mishawn Smith, MPA

Since she started working at UMB a decade ago, Smith, an executive administrative assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), has looked for ways to make a difference. Smith has started the Booked for Lunch Club where members read and discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion books; founded the University’s first faculty and staff LGBTQ+ affinity group, Stonewall Pride; and worked with the UMB Police Department (UMBPD) on safety issues.

For her efforts, she has received UMSON’s Dean Jane M. Kirschling Leadership Award and the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Staff Award for Inclusion, Multiculturalism, and Social Justice. And now she has added another honor: a 2021 UMB Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Award.

“Following Dr. King’s legacy, Smith has used the power of her actions and voice to bring about change and challenge individuals to address systemic issues,” said Enjoli Sonnier, MBA, MS, assistant director of events, Office of Communications, UMSON.

Smith said her philosophy is “to meet people where they are.”

“I care about people and equality. There is so much room for change and to better communities and ourselves,” Smith said. “I just jump in and do what I can.”

Smith’s work to create a safer environment for marginalized populations led to the designation of the UMSON gender-neutral bathrooms and the launch of the school’s LGBTQ Workgroup that evolved into Stonewall Pride, where she serves as the first chair.

In 2017, Smith founded the Booked for Lunch Club, which won Insight Into Diversity magazine’s 2020 Inspiring Affinity Group Award.

“The book club serves as a safe and informal place to have an honest and raw discussion,” Smith said.

Smith has been a vital partner in working with UMBPD to ensure that officers are trained through Safe Space, a workshop that provides information on supporting LGBTQ+ students and employees. She has been a program facilitator since 2016, leading multiple workshops. Smith said she has been inspired by Dr. King’s principles since she was a child, watching her mother advocate for family and neighbors. “It was not long before I was advocating for others,” she said. “My mother’s principles were similar to Dr. King’s. We were raised that no one is above or beneath us, to respect ourselves, and treat others with respect and dignity.”


Eseosa Fernandes, MD, MPH

When Eseosa Fernandes completes her preventive medicine residency and her master’s in clinical research at UMB, she plans to funnel her passion for patient advocacy and health equity into working with the city’s underserved communities.

“As an immigrant and person of color, I have experienced firsthand the painful consequences of a lack of inclusion and cultural awareness,” said Fernandes, who emigrated from Nigeria in 2009. “This has formed a firmly rooted motivation to contribute to diversity efforts, advocate for the empowerment of marginalized groups, and create a better platform for future generations.”

When she moved to Baltimore two years ago to attend UMB, she learned quickly about the injustices that minorities face in the city when she was repeatedly given advice to avoid living in West Baltimore. She was told it was a socially and economically disadvantaged area with high crime rates and inadequate infrastructure.

“This was my introduction to the long history of injustice as well as the legacy of resilience that characterizes this vibrant and complex city,” she said. “As part of my preventive medicine program, I took a graduate course at UMB on health equity and social justice. This strengthened my enthusiasm to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the University and in the city.”

Fernandes’ work with numerous programs at UMB has led her to be named a 2021 Diversity Recognition Award winner as Outstanding UMB Student. Fernandes worked with B’more for Healthy Babies, an innovative project reducing infant mortality in Baltimore, from 2019 to 2020. Fernandes also served as a virtual camp counselor last summer with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Mini-Medical School for Kids program. She is currently a President’s Student Leadership Institute candidate with UMB Intercultural Leadership and Engagement. Fernandes will complete 30 hours of community service and learn how to best translate diversity insights into action. She also serves on the University of Maryland Medical Center Diversity and Inclusion Council as co-chair of the inclusive environment workgroup.

Fernandes called the Dr. King award “meaningful. This award is about each of us. It is a reminder of our collective ethical responsibility. This award is a ‘thank you’ for what we are all doing individually to increase equity at UMB and the wider Baltimore community.”


Members of the 2019-20 UMSOD Student National Dental Association executive board, shown before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accolades are nothing new for the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD). For seven years in a row, the group has won first or second place in the national SNDA Chapter of the Year competition for its efforts to build minority representation in the oral health professions and spread inclusiveness at UMSOD and throughout UMB and its surrounding community. In 2020, SNDA won the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures Award, a national honor that highlights outstanding contributions to dentistry and community outreach.

And now, the group has won a 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Diversity Recognition Award.

“SNDA members take a multifaceted approach by targeting diversity and thereby expanding inclusiveness in order to build a pipeline of future oral health professionals who are representative of the populations they serve,” Valli Meeks, DDS, MS, RDH, clinical professor in the Department of Oncology and Diagnostic Sciences at UMSOD, wrote in nominating SNDA for the UMB award. “They support and mentor their fellow dental students and promote awareness for oral health care through their participation in community health fairs. I’m particularly impressed with their participation in programs that focus on building health literacy and encouraging youths to aspire to careers in dentistry.”

Through the 4-year-old Generation NeXT program, SNDA members mentor high school students who are training to be dental assistants at Baltimore’s Vivien Thomas Medical Arts Academy and educate them about other oral health professions. SNDA members also participate in Impressions Day, an annual event where predental undergraduates are introduced to dental professions and learn about the UMSOD experience and application process.

SNDA members also lend a hand to health fairs and winter coat or toy drives, organize an annual walk to raise oral cancer awareness, and participate in events that provide meals to the poor or those battling serious disease or illness. “SNDA’s commitment to service is consistent and strong,” said Andrea Morgan, DDS, MS, clinical assistant professor in UMSOD’s Division of Operative Dentistry, director of student advocacy and cultural affairs, and a faculty advisor to the chapter. “It warms my heart to see young health care providers realizing the importance of community service and engagement.”

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Lou Cortina and Jen Badie

Lou Cortina is director of editorial services in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Jen Badie is the assistant director of editorial services in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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