New Student Organization – C.R.A.M. 

Shukan Patel (Class of 2020) and Melanie Hotz (Class of 2020) 

The idea for the Cultural and Religious Awareness in Medicine (C.R.A.M.) group interestingly enough started from a conversation sparked through the social media outlet Snapchat. During Diwali, the festival of lights celebrated by Hindus in the fall, Shukan sent out a picture of Devos (special cotton wicks) burning with text across it saying ‘Happy Diwali.’ For Melanie, this image stirred up years of memories of Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights celebrated in the winter. The next day during anatomy lab (between quizzing each other on the origin and insertions of muscles, of course), Melanie was over at Shukan’s tank and brought up the Diwali Snapchat. This began a still ongoing conversation about Hinduism, Judaism, tradition and culture.

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Recognizing our similarities as each belonging to a minority religious group, and acknowledging our different experiences presented a unique opportunity where we were able to learn about cultures other than our own.  We shared a curiosity about each other’s culture that we came to find others also had. Our friends have asked us all kinds of questions about our religions, and we have enjoyed being able to share our experiences. We wanted to extend this beyond our immediate group of friends, so we started brainstorming on how we could celebrate our cultures and religions with our peers in a fun and interactive way. Our goal with C.R.A.M. is to create a comfortable, lighthearted and fun environment for students, faculty, staff, residents and any other member of the LSUHSC community to share their religion or culture with others, while providing an opportunity for us to all learn about something new through the personal perspectives of our peers.

For students like Melanie and Shukan, it is common to have to squeeze in the observance of holidays between study sessions and often alone without our families, because breaks from school and test schedules are not planned around these lesser known celebrations. Through C.R.A.M., we hope to share the celebration of holidays while spreading awareness of differing backgrounds amongst our peers. We believe that understanding cultures and religions other than our own can help make us better people and better physicians. The world we live in is diverse, and our patient population will inevitably reflect that. We will definitely treat patients with a different culture and religion than our own, and we hope that this interest group will enable us to enter these interactions knowing something about that patient’s religion or culture, and help strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.

Each C.R.A.M. meeting will focus on a specific religious holiday or cultural custom that is presented by a member of the LSUHSC community speaking on behalf of their own experiences, where we can learn about tradition, participate in rituals, and eat lots of food! Tentatively some of the holidays we wanted to include for the upcoming year are: Ramadan, Passover, Diwali, Holi, Cajun Mardi Gras, Christmas, and Dia De los Meurtos. Of course, these are not the only holidays we want to hold meetings around, we welcome and encourage anyone to come and share any religion or culture with us in a safe, fun, and friendly environment.

If anyone has any questions about the group, would like more information, or would like to suggest a topic for a meeting they would like to host, please contact either Shukan Patel ( or Melanie Hotz (!