DETROIT – Before delivering the keynote speech at the 2022 Wayne State Warriors of Distinction Awards on Thursday, Nov. 17, 36th District Court Judge Jacquelyn McClinton was captivated by one honoree’s story.
As she prepared her address, McClinton was blown away by Sarah Battiston’s academic vita.
“The things that you are doing as a medical student are trailblazing,” Judge McClinton told the M.D. candidate during the virtual ceremony. “And you’re doing so at such a young age.”
As a third-year medical student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Battiston has gained a reputation for having a can-do spirit, activating several campuswide initiatives, and advocating for the health and empowerment of women and all people who are in need of obstetrics-gynecology care.
Battiston was recognized for her dedication to women’s issues, earning the Warriors of Distinction Student Award, presented by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Career Development Committee. The annual honor recognizes a current student who has demonstrated a sustained commitment to women and/or issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I feel so blessed,” said Battiston, of Clinton Township, Michigan. “I want to thank the commission, my school and Wayne State, especially the School of Medicine. They have given me these opportunities to start programs and do the work I have done. I want to thank IJI [the Institutional Justice and Inclusion Committee]. I would not have been able to do most of those projects without them. IJI has made incredible lengths for our school with DEI issues and I’m very, very blessed to be a part of that organization.”
The other Warriors of Distinction awardees are: Krista Brumley, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, who received the employee award; and Shira Heisler, M.D., medical director of the Detroit Public Health STD Clinic and a WSU assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Disease, who received the alumni award.
During the event, it was also announced that 17 students had received scholarships. The Women of Wayne Incentive Scholarship and the Federation of Women’s Clubs of Metropolitan Detroit Scholarship were awarded to Lisa Aldape, Alondra Barajas, Emily Bowery, Arely Cavazos, Kenneth Gourlay, Dana Grossmann, Lena Hakim, Batoul Hassan, Lauren Hodson, Arreana Jackson, Nadia Khan, Julia Koza, Alissa Pifer, Jessica Pollie, Grace Pouttu, Jasmine Sidhu and Esha Tiwari.
More than 40 individuals attended the virtual ceremony, including McClinton and Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson.
“I want to acknowledge all of the individuals who were nominated for the awards,” Wilson said. “I did take the time to read each of the nominations, and this is really a phenomenal group. You have gotten the attention of your colleagues thanks to your contributions to diversity, inclusion and gender-equity matters. And thank you for working so hard to make our campus a more equitable place.”
While at Wayne State, Battiston has worked tirelessly to demonstrate a commitment to assisting others; advancing women’s health; listening to and learning about diverse communities; and advocating for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in all areas of her life. She’s partnered with the Office of Women’s Health and helped in their launch of Well Woman Wednesday. In addition, she co-founded Know Your Flow, a student organization that educates teenagers and community members who menstruate about their bodies, periods and reproductive health.
Battiston, who attended Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, created and held endometriosis and trans-health educational workshops to discuss racial inequities of diagnosis and OB/GYN care for the trans community. Her other projects include investigating the attitudes of pregnant people toward the COVID-19 vaccine and studying the implicit pathologizing of minority populations in pre-clinical medical school curriculum.
Third-year medical school student Emily Otiso nominated her friend and classmate, saying it’s impossible to fully capture the countless ways Battiston positively impacts the university and neighboring communities.
“Sarah’s love for this community is what truly drives her work and motivates her to continue advocating for others,” Otiso said. “On multiple occasions, Sarah has taken time to meet with newly matriculated students to openly discuss the challenges of medical school, mental health, and to provide support in an informal setting.”
Before attending Wayne State, Battiston graduated summa cum laude from Grand Valley State University with a B.S. in biomedical science and minor in religious studies.
Battiston also focuses on implicit bias, racial disparities and religious equity. As an IJI lead facilitator, she has pushed for a new religious holiday policy on campus so peers of all faiths have equitable time off to observe their holidays without fear of repercussion.
McClinton said she was most impressed by Battiston’s desire to create a program that provides safe spaces to learn about reproductive health, contraception and puberty.
“I absolutely love the title of your program Know Your Flow,” McClinton said. “As we have recently seen, the autonomy of reproductive health is something that Michiganders and the entire nation – women and men – take very seriously. Your advocacy in assuring that all women are educated about their bodies and their rights is nothing short of amazing. I know that this is just the beginning of you being a change agent for the world.”