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Kenneth Young II receives Aspire! Award

Kenneth Young receiving his Aspire! Award.
Kenneth Young receives the Aspire! Award for Courageous Leadership. From left: Dean Lee Learman, Kenneth Young II, Emily Holt Foerst, director for academic counseling and enrichment services, Aubrey Knight, senior dean for academic affairs

Kenneth Young II - Preparing for a Life of Courageous Leadership

In the fall of 2020, Kenneth Young and two other medical students wrote a thoughtful and compelling letter to the deans, faculty, and administration of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. The three authors stepped forward to represent black voices on the issue of how diversity, inclusion, and equity impact the practice of medicine. The letter was titled “A Response to the Murder of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd: Requests for Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Faculty and Administration.”

The outcome of that letter was the development of the Inclusive VTC Task Force to "advance an inclusive environment that attracts and retains the best talent, values diversity of life experiences and perspectives, and encourage innovation in our pursuit of equity."

His nominator wrote, “Kenneth served on the Task Force Steering Committee. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement and his second year of medical school, Kenneth took on this substantial leadership role. He did so willingly, he did so thoughtfully, and he did so in addition to an extremely burdensome academic load. At present, the School of Medicine continues to make strides toward achieving the task force recommendations.”

Lee Learman, Dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine said, “This is where the next generation of physician scientists makes its mark -- asking the difficult ‘why’ questions and pushing us to rethink common approaches. I’m proud of the work they are doing.”

Kenneth is in the M.D./Ph.D. program in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Graduate Interdisciplinary Graduate Education. He is only the second student in the history of the medical school to pursue this degree. His first year of research was funded by a $75-thousand dollar National Institutes of Health Diversity Supplement.

Kenneth’s long-term plans are to promote health advocacy and conduct translational medical research by continuing to hone his communication and leadership skills through a scientific lens. Specifically, he wants to contribute to and advance the field of Trans medicine. Last semester he crafted a Trans medicine and sexual health lecture for second year medical students to highlight the importance of being aware of special and vulnerable populations. He has been honored by VTC as a Health Justice Scholar and has received the Dr. Edward G. & Mrs. Arlene Murphy Scholarship.

Kenneth’s willingness to advocate what is just and right is boundless, and he has contributed his time and talent to issues of homelessness, food insecurity, disabilities advancement, medical assistance for at-risk populations, and legislative lobbying. He has also guided underrepresented undergraduate students with an interest in medicine and research so that they can successfully navigate an intensive medical school preparation program.

With all this to his credit, Kenneth said he is most proud of failure. He said, “Failure has challenged me to think in unique ways to solve complex problems, build inner strength I never knew existed, and grow in ways I did not believe were possible.”