Scholarship Recipient Says Thank You to SMMA

Sent: 2017-04-05 5:48:30 PM
Subject: Re: Azisa Todd- Sinkler Miller Medical Association Scholarship
Hello Dr. Hodges,

I hope you are doing well. I am just sending this email as a personal follow up to inform you on the first half of my college experiences.  I realize as I enter my final quarter of being a first year that college has been a lifesaving experience. Despite the ability to come home every weekend, I now consider UCLA to be my home.  Although college has its ups and downs, I am blessed that I have the support from you as well as the founders and supporters of the Sinkler Miller Medical Association Scholarship Board.

From taking a class on the history of Rock and Roll to learning about the politics and biomedical ethics of stem cell research, I am happy that UCLA has exposed me to both humanities and science. This exposure will be critical when it comes time to apply for medical schools. Merging my love for humanities, social justice, and sciences could have only been made available had I gone to an institution like UCLA.

Similarly, my friendship circle is filled with people of all walks of life. Some are Humanities majors, some are science, and some are undeclared. Despite these differences, the main thing we have in common is that we are determined, bright young scholars who want to change the world in the best way possible. I see this mainly in my internship. As a member of the Student Activist Program on campus, our organization strives to reconstruct the cultural divide that is often unheard of on campus. In the midst of the election, we have decided that our spring quarter will be dedicated to bringing cultural organizations on campus together.   In many ways, UCLA’s political party system shares similar demographics within our own student government that is run by some of the cultural orgs, but by unifying these groups, SAP believes that we can strengthen the overall communal aspect that we feel is lacking.

Finally, I have become aware that college classes are rough, but they are passable.   I can honestly say that I have had my first official experience with college professors who may not support students, but the teaching assistants I have had were excellent. There has not been one TA during my primary college career that I have had a problem with. I recall my chemistry teacher in high school tell me prior to leaving for college that, if anything, attend office hours. I took that advice to heart, and my grades show how much of an impact office hours can have.

While I am still growing and learning my ways around college, I am happy with the experiences I’ve had and the friends I’ve made. Along with this, I have learned how important it is to keep in touch with people back home.   I write this email now, sitting in the library with a pile of textbooks, but something in my head  urged me to take time out and write to you.  You made an impact on my life and I am truly grateful for that.

Please keep in contact, especially during the summer seeing that I will be at UCLA taking summer courses to get ahead on my major requirements!   Please keep me in your prayers!


Azisa Todd


Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Residents Workshop Thumbnail

Residents Workshop

Ever wondered what’s down the road after residency or fellowship? SMMA is committed to empowering and enabling the next generation of African American physicians. To assist you in your career choices, we are offering a free workshop where fellows, residents and medical students can listen to and network with physicians in various types of practices. For those seeking an alternative path, you will have the opportunity to obtain insights and coaching from a physician working in the technology sector. Financial concerns? Come get some expert advice. There will be an opportunity to sign up for mentoring, meet with recruiters and network with other residents!

Like us on FB

Sign up TODAY!
Sign Up

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email

While both my parents are originally from Nigeria, they made our home in Fresno, CA and forged their way to make strong successful professional marks in our community with a lot of hard work and tireless determination.  I attended the University of CA, Davis and have always had a strong interest in healthcare. Yet, I believe my mother, whose dedication to her nursing career at Saint Agnes Hospital in Fresno, has played the single most important role in my decision to work in medicine. She taught me at a very young age that we must always work hard and give back, in some way, for the opportunities we have all been given throughout our lifetime.

I am confident that my decision to give back as a podiatrist will offer me opportunities to not only directly help my patient population, but to also make substantial contributions to the healthcare arena including local underserved patient populations, clinical research and public health outreach to those in need both in the US and international underserved areas. I therefore remain active with important community service initiatives, international health and local health fairs for our Bay Area challenged communities, who need direct clinical outreach to their neighborhoods and homes. I also remain active in Bay Area clinical research programs in order to help the next generation of patients with new innovative treatment modalities.

As a 2nd year podiatric resident at the San Francisco Veteran’s Affairs (VASF) Health System and Medical Center, I also work directly with residents and medical students through University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and the UCSF-Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. As the 2017 SMMA Resident Liaison, I look forward to establishing a strong communication network to extend the SMMA tenants to my current colleagues and to also extend the SMMA initiatives to inspire younger generations at Bay Area high schools, junior colleges and state colleges.

When not at work or studying, my personal time is devoted to maintaining an important balance in my life    with regular cardiovascular exercise and spending invaluable time with my family and close friends.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
young woman in blue dress smiling with arms crossed

Hannah is a native of Richmond, California.  She attended Middle College High School which is designed as an alternative educational program that allows for exposure to college while in high school.  The school is located on the Contra Costa Community College campus.  It is a public school, but highly competitive and primarily for students of the  West Contra Costa Unified School District.

She attended high school with her twin sister and an older sister.  Friends referred to them as the “triplets”.

She looked back at her high school experience as a great opportunity.  Students took 1-2 college courses in addition to high school courses, and received college credit.  Upon graduation, the students had enough credits to get their AA degree.

When asked, what inspired you to choose a career in medicine?  She replied that since high school she has been interested in global poverty.  Since both of her parents are from Nigeria, she is aware of the privileges that she had growing up in the US in contrast to life in Nigeria.  Through community service activities with her church, she developed a desire to give back to her community.  Science came easily to her, and medicine seemed a natural medium to further her interests in global health, poverty and community service.

When asked about life as a medical student, she replied that she is asking many questions – such as what does global heath look like in medicine? Being a medical student in San Francisco, she is becoming more aware of the issues of race and its impact on health care.

Hannah shared that UCSF is a very supportive environment.   She found out about the SMMA scholarship through the Office of Diversity and Outreach at UCSF.

When asked how did the award change her perspective of what was and wasn’t possible during her medical career, she responded that the award helped to validate the interests and the work that students have outside of medical school.  The  Black Lives Matter activisms inspired her.   She joined other first and second year medical students to create and organize  “White Coats for Black Lives” and the nationwide “White Coat Die-In” demonstrations of 2014.  When asked why, she responded that she felt that it was important to acknowledge that racial bias affects both the justice system and the medical field.  She was passionate about the importance of Black medical students taking a stand, and appreciated the scholarship as it validated the necessity for social responsibility that she and all the other scholarship recipients were participating in.

She is inspired that there is a community of Black physicians that cares about issues in the Black community outside of health care and encourages community involvement.   Being from the Bay Area and loving the environment, she is inspired to stay and practice after graduation.

What would you like to say to the sponsors who support the annual benefit and make the scholarships possible?

“Thank you so much for the scholarship.  It encourages students to step outside of medicine and education to pursue interests outside of school.  Attending the benefit is also inspiring.”

Hannah Obasi is a third year medical student at UCSF.  She is interested in racial disparities in health care and has spent time educating herself looking at the genetic, social and bias components.  She is challenged to learn more on this subject.  Prior to clinical rotations, she along with other students created “Race Talks” – a student- only space to discuss current events that can be emotionally triggering, where they can freely and openly have a guided discussion.  Her goal was that this would also be an opportunity for the students to understand each other and become empowered.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Dr. Ellamae Simmons seated and smiling

Dr. Ellamae Simmons

Dr. Ellamae Simmons was born March 26, 1918, and is an icon in the history of the United States and American Medicine.  She dreamed at an early age of becoming a physician while growing up in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.  Her journey was long and complicated by a Jim Crow system of racism, and later sexism.  With hard work, determination and help from a few who saw her enormous potential, she achieved a nursing degree from Hampton Institute, served in WWII and was one of the first African American nurses in the US Army Nursing Corps. She received a master’s degree in Social Work and ultimately graduated from Howard University Medical School.  Dr. Simmons went on to complete her residency in Internal Medicine, and later a Fellowship in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; she was the first African American in this specialty in the country.  

Dr. Simmons came to California and was the first African American female physician hired by Kaiser in 1964.  

Throughout her life she demonstrated grace and a commitment to excellence, community service and mentoring.

In 2016 she published her memoir OVERCOME, My Life in Pursuit of a Dream.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email

Holiday party to honor the children in our community

Inside our committment to empower our community, SMMA is committed to empowering the children.  They are our future.  Our future is often shaped by life events and what we say to ourselves as a result of those events.  Each life event and the impact it has on a child can either limit or expand what becomes possible for that child.

SMMA is planning a holiday party for its members and adult professionals in our community.  The theme of the party is to create hope in the mind of a child.  We want the children to know that people care about them and that they are loved.  We are asking that each person bring an unwrapped gift in addition to a $75 donation.

We are looking for a venue, and sponsors.  We  are in need of Santa’s Helpers to wrap the gifts and present to the children, along with Santa!

Interested in creating hope in the mind of a child this holiday season?  Email us at

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Joy Foster, M.D.

Letter from the President

As the newly elected president for 2016-2017, I want to acknowledge each and every member of Sinkler Miller Medical Association for your continued support of the organization over the past 33 years. Without you there would be no organization. Without your support, the mission of Sinkler Miller Medical Association would be nothing more than words on paper. We are physicians dedicated to a healthy community. We are physicians standing for the improvement of healthcare of people of color in the Bay Area. We are physicians committed to our community through public health programs, committed to the recruitment and retention of African-American healthcare providers, and we are physicians committed to empowering the next generation of healthcare providers through our annual scholarship fundraiser.

As president of this organization, I have the honor of being the leader of leaders; to speak, create and advocate on behalf of each and every member. To use the analogy of an orchestra, a conductor does not generate the music as an individual. It takes each and every member of the orchestra working together under the direction of the conductor to create music. The ongoing success of the organization is contingent upon each and every member contributing to the well-being of the organization.

The success of any organization requires a strong foundation. Increasing the financial well-being of the organization is of paramount importance. It is possible to strengthen the foundation of our organization through increased paid membership to include the participation of younger physicians, procurement of grants, and expansion of the success of our annual fundraiser. You, our members, play a crucial role in strengthening the foundation of the organization. It’s important that we support each other. I am committed to listening to what’s important to each of you in the context of what’s important to the organization. We must continue to raise the awareness of Sinkler Miller Medical Association in our community so that we are known as a resource for all levels of the community that we serve.

I invite each and every one of you to declare that this is the year to raise the bar for our organization. Just like the conductor can’t create music alone, the success of our organization depends on each and every one of you being an active participant, asking yourself, what am I doing to support my organization? Have I paid my dues? Have I invited other physicians to become members? Have I supported the fundraiser events? Have I suggested possible speakers for our membership meetings? We all make a difference.

I acknowledge each of you for the difference that you make and that you continue to make in our organization, our community, and our world.

I look forward to creating with you the next two years of Sinkler Miller Medical Association.

Peace and love,

Joy D. Foster, M.D.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Coal Coalition Protester

Coal measure in Oakland gets defeated

Sinkler Miller Medical Association (SMMA) was contacted by one of our members, Dr. Muntu Davis, Department Director and County Health Officer, on behalf of The No Coal in Oakland organization in February 2016 requesting our support to join the fight to keep coal from coming through Oakland. The proposed means of transportation was by open railcars which would pass through the communities of East and West Oakland. Knowing that the Bay Area, particularly West Oakland, has some of the highest asthma rates, the potential impact on the health and well-being of our community prompted our organization to take a stand on the issue.

We felt that it was important to not just lend our voice, but to be knowledgeable about the chain of events that led to the request.  

Here’s a brief summary: in 2012, the city awarded California capital and investment group (CCIG) headed by developer Phil Tagami, the right to develop the Oakland Army base. At the time the contract was awarded, the developer had assured the Oakland City council that coal would not be on the list of commodities transported through the bulk terminal.  In 2015, it was learned that the state of Utah loaned $53million to CCIG for the construction of a 330 acre multi-commodity deep draft marine terminal in exchange for the export of coal to the Pacific Rim economies. This prompted many hearings by the City Council where both the opponents and proponents presented their perspective. Through networking, numerous letters to the City Council, organization of a teach-in designed to educate the community on this issue as well as related community concerns, the voice of the No Coal in Oakland campaign grew louder.

Hundreds of community organizations took a stand on this issue. In March of 2016, SMMA sent the first of two letters to the Oakland City Council voicing our opposition to the transport of coal through our communities. The initial ban on coal was approved by the City Council on June 27, 2016 and became law on July 19, 2016.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Resident Liason Martha Tesfalul MD

While my resume has had countless iterations over the years, one section that has been robust overtime is that of “Community Service.” Starting by volunteering at my church and later supporting numerous charity events through junior and senior high school volunteer groups, I made it a priority to find a way to pay forward the blessings I have been afforded to others. It was only later in college as I learned invaluable life lessons through campus life as well as in sociology and anthropology classes that I realized community building, that is the intentional practice of enhancing the capacity of communities themselves, rather than service alone is how I should focus my engagement with others.

A crucial avenue for acting on my early passion for community building as a medical student was the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the oldest and largest student-run national organization focused on issues impacting medical students of color. The impressive individuals who were SNMA members on my campus turned out to crucial allies to me that encouraged me even when I found myself feeling overwhelmed with various challenges, including the unexpected loss of my father during my first clerkship. It was only with their unwavering support that I realized I could move beyond adversity to prosperity. They were also the ones who worked alongside me to ensure that we were respectful and empathetic neighbors to  the underserved communities who we lived alongside. My experience as a coordinator for a pipeline program focused on working with young men of color allowed me to better appreciate not only the tragedy of the often untapped potential in that demographic but also the tremendous value of the brotherhood the mentees experienced working together.

When I started residency, I initially found myself focused primarily on my clinical duties. However it was not long before I felt an unease about my lack of ties to the new area in which I was working outside of work. I fortunately found myself invited to the fall scholarship event of Sinkler Miller Medical Association (Sinkler Miller) by a friend in 2014, and the rest is history. At the event, I was a captivated witness to the organization’s commitment to building the capacity of trainees of color as well as to facilitating community among practicing and aspiring physicians in the Bay Area. Thus when I received an invitation to apply for a position on the board, I accepted enthusiastically.

Though I have been a member of Sinkler Miller for less than a year, I can say without hesitation that it will be one of the highlights of my time in the Bay area regardless of how long I am here (and hopefully that ends up being a long time). The organization has given me the opportunity to forge connections with like-minded physicians in the area as we strive alongside one another to become informed about issues affecting our community and to leverage this amazing network to address them. My hope is to help other trainees in the area to tap into the tremendous potential of this organization through my personal role on the board. If you know of anyone who is looking to get their minds sharp, hearts connected, and hands dirty in some community building with us, please do not hesitate to send them my way!


Martha Tesfalul is originally from Houston, TX, where she grew up with her parents and four younger siblings. She obtained her BA in Sociology with a Citation in Health Policy from Harvard University and her MD at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is also a former Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Currently Martha is a third year resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California San Francisco and a non-voting board member of Sinkler Miller Medical Association.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email
Weathersby Headshot

Dr. Weatherby’s Scholarship

Hello my name is Sandra Weatherby, MD FACP. I am an Internist and have been practicing at Kaiser Oakland for the last 19 years. I grew up in a single parent household in East Oakland. My Mom was a hard working blue collar worker. I decided I wanted to be a doctor when I was a teenager. I became a doctor because I wanted to help people, there was a certain stability of the practice of medicine, and for the respect and  honor that doctors are given. I also wanted to provide compassionate and accessible care to my patients. I did not want anybody to feel that they could not come to the doctor because of their economics, race, gender or any other reason.

I think one of my obstacles to becoming a doctor was academic preparation and getting the best education. I attended inner city schools in Oakland which was great. One summer while in junior high, I went to UC Berkeley for summer programs  specifically for inner city school children. I discovered that some of the students were already doing algebra and geometry. I was still doing general math –  not because I didn’t have the aptitude for algebra or geometry, but because my school curriculum did not introduce us to higher level math sooner.  I would advise young students that it is very important to get as much exposure and education as possible. It is important to get involved in programs that will propel you toward your dreams. My teachers and counselor were always supportive. They helped me get to where I am today.

I found out about Sinkler Miller Scholarships when I was looking for a scholarship for a post baccalaureate program. At that time, they were only giving scholarships to medical students. Once I became a medical student, I was able to apply, and  I won!  Winning this scholarship helped me to pay for tuition, books, food, and other items.   One of the biggest gifts was that it provided me contact to an organization of doctors  that I would continue to know over the next 30 years.

I always wanted to come home to the bay area to practice and I did.

I have been on the scholarship committee for over 15 years. I like to be in the background supporting my fellow Sinkler Miller physicians and the students. I was recently asked to become the Chair of the Scholarship Committee. I love what we do! We support students. We support the youth. We support the future of our country and our nation’s health care system.

The organization of Sinkler Miller Medical Association makes a difference in so many lives. Not just the students we support, but their families and their surrounding communities. When all of us support this organization, we support the larger world.

Dr. Weatherby is a graduate of Howard University College of Medicine. She is board certified in Internal Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and is affiliated with Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. She is the Chair of the Scholarship committee.  The scholarships are awarded annually at SMMA’s signature fall dinner benefit.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email