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Resilience Takes Center Stage at Speaker Series Event

Faculty at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine hosted a speaker series event that highlighted the power of resilience in overcoming challenges and achieving success. The event, held at the Herbert Business School, featured three distinguished speakers who shared their personal stories of resilience and triumph.

The first speaker series event is part of the 2023 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Mini-Grant Award that Elahe Nezami, Viviana Horigian, and Gauri Agarwal received for their initiative – The KIND Program: Kindle Inclusion Through Narratives of Diversity (KIND).

KIND aims to foster a culture of inclusivity and diversity within the university's faculty and student body.

Dr. Viviana Horigian, a renowned educator and advocate, kicked off the event by expressing her hope that storytelling could encourage and empower others. "We hope that through storytelling and sharing our own stories, we can build an environment that is welcoming and inclusive. 

Interprofessional faculty were able to explore issues such as imposter syndrome and stereotype risks through this storytelling series. They also shared their triumphs and tenacity, serving as role models and inspirations for underrepresented groups.

For the first time ever, Martha Bloyer, P.T., D.P.T., publicly shared her own journey and the unexpected turns her life took. “Our paths don't always line up how we think – my path diverted,” Bloyer stated emotionally. Shortly after her mother was imprisoned, Bloyer lost a scholarship from the University of Miami. The distress she endured affected her performance in her classes, and her grades declined. Bloyer went from sleeping in cars to completing her education and having a successful career. She now works to improve diversity in her field.

She also emphasized the importance of not letting stereotypes define one's path and encouraged others to ask for help when needed, drawing from her own experiences of overcoming challenges as a Colombian woman living in Florida – especially in the 80s.

Stephen Symes, M.D., an infectious disease specialist, shared his childhood experiences growing up in Jamaica. "When I was growing up, I didn't realize how fortunate I was until later on," said Symes as he reflected on the strict upbringing he had, which emphasized the importance of academic achievement. He stressed the significance of being not just a doctor, but also a mentor, and highlighted the endless opportunities that are available for students or potential students.

“I was really privileged to be able to see and learn from people who came from different backgrounds and had a different experience growing up from me,” said Symes, who is also the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

Brenda Owusu, Director of the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program, shared her journey as the daughter of Haitian parents who immigrated to the Bahamas. Owusu left for Jamaica at 18 to pursue what she thought was her passion – becoming a pharmacist. After struggling in her classes, she returned to her home and found her new path. 

Owusu ended up in Florida and recounted facing challenges as the only Black student in her program at Naples and being part of a BSN program created specifically for only three students. She currently holds multiple titles, D.N.P., A.P.R.N., A.N.P.-B.C., and F.N.P.-B.C., yet she emphasized the importance of never forgetting where one comes from and staying humble to help others.

A common theme that resonated throughout the event was the power of resilience. Dr. Gauri Agarwal, who moderated the discussion, summarized the event by highlighting how resilience was the driving force behind each speaker's journey to success.

Dr. Elahe Nezami expressed her gratitude to the speakers and commended them for the courage it takes to share their stories. She also addressed the students in the audience, “It is not easy, but you are tough.”

The event concluded with an interactive survey where the audience was asked to share one or two words that summarized their experience at the event. Words like "inspiring," "empowering," and "motivating" were commonly used, reflecting the impact of the speakers' stories on the audience.

As the event came to a close, attendees were encouraged to continue sharing their stories and supporting each other on their respective paths to resilience. A QR code was provided for the audience to share the event's highlights and spread the message of resilience beyond the occasion.

Through compelling stories and shared experiences, the event left attendees inspired and motivated to embrace resilience in their own journeys.

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on April 19, 2023