The U.S. Public Health Service Physician Professional Advisory Committee awarded Dakota, a fourth-year medical student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM), with a 2021 Excellence in Public Health Award.
The prestigious national award recognizes medical students who are public health champions, helping to address public health concerns in their community.In particular, Buhrman has focused much of her efforts on health disparities, particularly for refugees and immigrants. “One of my biggest passions that is woven into my medical career is closing equity gaps, especially centered around the refugee and immigrant communities here in Roanoke,” Buhrman said. “I’ve been fortunate there are so many opportunities for students to stay involved if you are able and willing.”
While already committed to supporting vulnerable populations, Buhrman notes that she felt even more driven after meeting a pediatric patient during an international clinic night at Roanoke’s Bradley Free Clinic. An 8-year-old boy, whose family had taken asylum in the United States from Honduras, was complaining of knee pain. “I was trying to figure out what could cause this when he told me he had walked here all the way from Honduras. I will never forget this,” Buhrman said. “There are so many stories like that, just seeing how resilient a lot of these patients are. They have gone through so much, finally think they’re safe, and it’s going to be an easier life. That’s often not the case. For me, once I was meeting these patients, I can’t not help them now.”
Buhrman will graduate from VTCSOM in May and is headed to her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for residency in pediatrics. She plans to continue prioritizing public health work and advocacy during and after residency. “I am humbled by this award and thankful to the community of Roanoke that enabled me to pursue so much here,” Buhrman said.