Politico NY: Stem cell researchers plead for funding program

By Nick Niedzwiadek

02/05/2018 06:37 PM EDT

ALBANY — Stem cell researchers touted the results of New York’s decade of investment in their work Monday and advocated for a critical funding program’s continued existence.

The New York State Stem Cell Science program, a $600 million initiative, began in 2007 under then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Supporters laud the program for helping New York’s research labs remain competitive nationally, creating new jobs and tax revenue and advancing potentially historic medical research.

“Without NYSTEM, New York will frankly not be taken seriously as a center of stem cell research,” said Susan Solomon, founder and chief executive officer of the New York Stem Cell Foundation.

New York has invested more than $350 million for hundreds of research projects at 39 New York institutions. Part of that money has gone toward training more than 200 new researchers, more than half of whom are now employed throughout the state, bolstering the number of people versed in the highly specialized field.

Advocates are pressuring the state to continue its commitment in part because of past funding issues. In 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomoannounced $36 million in state money, only to delay sending out the awards for months, perplexing researchers and school administrators.

Stem cell research advocates on Monday said the program fills a needed gap between the early-stage research, which the National Institutes of Health is willing to fund, and the promising work that attracts venture capital and biotechnology firms.

“NIH doesn’t fund all kinds of research, and they’re very risk-averse,” said Ruth Lehmann, chair of cell biology at New York University School of Medicine. “NYSTEM has really helped us to fund the high-risk research … that’s really led to the type of rewards you’d want from that high-risk research.”

NYSTEM goes toward research that would struggle to get funded otherwise, they said.

“You have to de-risk it before you can attract venture capital or biotech,” Solomon said.

Stem cell research is among the most promising avenues for finding a cure for such afflictions as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, bone disease and diabetes.

Lorenz Studer, a Parkinson’s researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has received nearly $24 million in various grants through the program.

“This is a really important time to have the New York funding,” Studer, a 2015 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” said in an interview.

Her funding included a $14.9 million award in 2012 for a research consortium to develop a stem cell-based therapy for Parkinson’s.

Studer was able to parlay his promising work and form a company called BlueRock Therapeutics, which secured $225 million in Series A financing from Versant Ventures and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG.

He said the company is looking to begin human trials by the end of the year.

“We’re very close to starting,” he said.

Advocates say success stories like Studer’s are key to maintaining support for the program and keeping New York competitive with states like California and Massachusetts, which are awash in both venture capital and the intellectual capital needed to advance stem cell research.

“There’s kind of a joke that February is a wonderful recruiting month for California,” Solomon said. “It’s snowing here and it’s 80 degrees in San Diego.”

To view online:



By Capital Tonight Staff  |  February 5, 2018 @8:22 PM

New York Stem Cell Science awards support research into things like blood disorders, cancer, or the Zika virus. And it all started with a $600 million investment back in 2007. Monday, researchers gave lawmakers an update on some of the work they’ve been doing, and how it is impacting not only medicine but the state’s economy. Jo Wiederhorn of the Associated Medical Schools of New York explains.

Watch here.

Daily News Op-ed: Diversity can make New York healthier

More doctors should know the culture, and the language



Saturday, December 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

Sheba Ebhote, the daughter of a Guyanese immigrant, grew up in Brooklyn, where she saw her family struggle to get their health-care needs met. A cultural disconnect between her family members and their doctors led to poor medical care.

That experience motivated Ebhote to become a doctor who would serve members of her community. But she soon discovered pursuing a career in medicine was fraught with obstacles and barriers, particularly for individuals traditionally underrepresented in medicine.

African Americans and Latinos, who together make up 31% of New York’s population, are only 12% of the state’s physician workforce. Making matters worse, for some groups, like black males, the number enrolled in medical school has actually declined over the past four decades: The number of black male medical students statewide went from 548 students in 1978 to 515 in 2014.

Those of us who work at all levels of education, health care and government have a collective responsibility to help more underrepresented students find the path to and through medical school.

This is not just about equal opportunity.

Diversity in medicine is key to improving the health of New Yorkers. Data shows that when patients and physicians are from similar backgrounds and speak the same language, health outcomes improve. This is due to longer patient visits, increased patient satisfaction and improved adherence to treatment.

Doctors from racial and ethnic backgrounds typically underrepresented in medicine are also significantly more likely to practice primary care, and to practice in areas federally designated as medically underserved.

But many obstacles exist along the path to becoming a physician for students such as Ebhote.

High school and college advisors have misconceptions about the medical school application process and the qualifications that are needed to enter medical school. Those misconceptions often deter students from applying. In addition, the cost of medical school tuition — the median level of debt for the class of 2017 was $192,000, not including accrued interest — is often used as a rationale for suggesting a student take a different career path.

There are other challenges. In college, Ebhote found that her high school curriculum had not prepared her to tackle pre-med courses. Her grades left her at a competitive disadvantage when applying to medical school.

The solution for students like her is simple: Access to medical school pipeline programs that provide academic enrichment and mentoring.

The Associated Medical Schools of New York, which I lead, has overseen successful pipeline programs since 1985. AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Program, which is supported by the New York State Department of Health, has enabled over 450 students from economically or educationally underserved areas to become doctors.

The programs help students prepare academically for medical school and provide them with the support and guidance they need to navigate the preparation and application process.

When New York Medical College saw Ebhote’s passion and potential, they offered her a conditional acceptance upon successful completion of the post-bac program. Earlier this fall, she donned a white coat as a student of the NYMC class of 2021.

But these programs aren’t enough. The cost of medical school and the ensuing debt remain major obstacles for underrepresented students. Schools in New York provide generous scholarships based on need, but they can’t fill the gap alone.

Earlier this year, New York State, thanks particularly to members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, seeded a new scholarship program with a $500,000 investment.

A group of students underrepresented in medicine are each getting $42,000 paid towards their tuition. For those attending state school, the scholarship covers the full tuition cost. The scholarship lifts the financial barrier to medical school enrollment.

But it has only been funded for one year. The dearth of diversity in medicine suggests we need a long-term investment in scholarships and increased support for pipeline programs. We hope we can count on the state to fill the gap.

Wiederhorn is president of the Associated Medical Schools of New York.

Capital Tonight: Scholarship Aimed at Increasing Diversity in Medicine

By Capital Tonight Staff  |  October 9, 2017 @4:11 PM

A state-sponsored scholarship is helping its first round of med students reduce their debts and make the medical field more diverse. The Associated Medical Schools of New York says having the demographics of the profession match the demographics of the state means better results for patients here. And so the group is pushing to make sure the scholarship stays funded. We talked to Jo Wiederhorn from the association and Assemblyman Crystal Peoples-Stokes about how to do that.

Crain’s Health Pulse: AMSNY’s new med-school scholarships promote diversity  

The Associated Medical Schools of New York on Tuesday announced its first 10 scholarships for disadvantaged and minority medical students to study in the state.

The organization’s new Diversity in Medicine scholarship program is initially funded with a $500,000 one-year grant from the state Department of Health.

The students were selected from among graduates of AMSNY’s post-baccalaureate programs, which offer a pipeline to med school by providing provisional acceptance to successful participants.

Each student will receive $42,000, an award that’s pegged to the cost of tuition and fees at a SUNY medical school. As part of their contract, they must agree to work in an underserved community in New York when they complete their medical training.

In the fall AMSNY will begin advocating in Albany for future budget allocations to continue the program, said Jo Wiederhorn, president of the group that represents the state’s medical schools. “We’ll ask for renewed funding for the 10 students, plus ask for money for another 10 students,” she said. “With the cost of medical school continuing to increase, I think it will help people make the decision to go work in an underserved area.”

From 2011 to 2015, just 12% of the state’s doctors were black or Hispanic—even though those groups accounted for 31% of the state’s population, according to the SUNY Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies. Research shows that having doctors from diverse backgrounds helps improve the quality of care in minority communities, Wiederhorn said. —R.S.

UB Post-Bac Program Director Recognized with Award of Excellence

The program director of the state’s first program designed to diversity New York’s physician workforce has been recognized with a staff award of excellence for promoting inclusion and cultural diversity at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. The 27-year-old post-baccalaureate program, supported by the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) and UB’s medical school, has produced more than 400 successful graduates who otherwise would not have attended medical school.

Jaafar M. Angevin, post-baccalaureate program coordinator, Office of Medical Education in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, received the award during the school’s Faculty and Staff Recognition Awards.

Angevin was described as “the face of the medical school’s highly successful and often unsung post-baccalaureate program, which the medical school has hosted for a quarter of a century, and whose mission is to promote diversity in the physician workforce.”

At the event, Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, said: “Jaafar works tirelessly with the students in the program, helping to ensure their success and making sure they stay on track. Not only does he organize the program, but he is a cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on sometimes and an all-around counselor to the students. He is a major contributor to the overall success of the program.”

AMSNY Announces New Diversity in Medicine Scholarship Recipients

Contact: Jaime Williams,, 914-325-8877   

New NYS-Sponsored Scholarship Helps Students from Diverse Backgrounds Become Doctors, Close Diversity in Medicine Gap

(New York, NY) – Today, the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) announced the 10 recipients of the new Diversity in Medicine Scholarship program. The scholarship program was funded this year by the New York State Department of Health, thanks to the support of the legislature, to help address the gap in physician diversity.

According to data from the SUNY Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies, Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos made up only 12% of the physician workforce in the state between 2011-2015, compared to approximately 31% of New York’s population. Data shows that patients who have doctors who represent their own diversity have better medical experiences.

Thanks to a $500,000 investment from the state, the medical school scholarships — pegged to the cost of SUNY medical school tuition— will help students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine by eliminating the financial barrier to medical school enrollment.

“We are grateful to the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus Members, and particularly Assembly Members Blake, People-Stokes, and Perry, Chair of Caucus, who understand that having more doctors who represent the great diversity of New York state will further enable us to improve health outcomes,” said AMSNY President Jo Wiederhorn. “Thanks to them, we will improve opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds and continue to diversify our physician workforce.”

Assemblymember Michael A. Blake said: “Investing in our medical students of color is an investment in the future and with the inclusion of funding for the Diversity in Medicine Program in the 2018 FY Budget, that is exactly what we are doing. These funds not only go to support students from economically underserved areas but also to the communities they return to, increasing the number and quality of health service in these areas. The Diversity in Medicine scholarship creates opportunities by eliminating the economic barrier that many experience during medical school enrollment. Each year, this program will give ten distinguished students the opportunity to continue learning, growing and making The Bronx and all of New York a greater state and, most importantly, bringing diversity to our medical field. I congratulate President Jo Wiederhorn for her exemplary leadership, Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes who continues to be the champion of this great cause and my colleagues in the Legislature and Executive Office to once again secure the funds to invest in our students future.”

“Congratulations to Karole Collier and Bradley Frate on obtaining Diversity in Medicine Scholarships as UB Medical Students. May your passion to treat the sick and underserved and your desire to reduce health disparities inspire the next generation of physicians. While the mastery of academics is key, so is cultural competency and the willingness to understand how diet, exercise and life choices affect one’s health. This is why I have and will continue to strongly advocate for increased diversity in medicine,” stated Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.

The 2017 Diversity in Medicine Scholarship recipients are: Karole Collier, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo; Melissa Espert, SUNY Upstate Medical University; Bradley Frate, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo; John Lopez, Albany Medical College; Catherina Lubin, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine; Zacharia Mohamed, SUNY Upstate Medical University; Akya Myrie, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine; Diana Perez, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Sebastian Placide, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Nefertiti Tyehemba, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

The students were selected from among graduates of AMSNY post-bac programs, which provide students from economically or educationally underserved areas with provisional acceptance at a New York State medical school depending on their completion of one of three programs. The Diversity in Medicine Program, which is supported by the New York State Department of Health, has enabled 450 students from economically or educationally underserved areas to become doctors. The programs include the 25-year-old, one-year post-baccalaureate program at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, and master’s programs at New York Medical College, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

The Diversity in Medicine scholarship is available to New York medical school students from economically and educationally underserved areas. For many students, paying for a medical education is a daunting challenge— of the graduating class of 2015, 81 percent of medical students reported leaving medical school with student loan debt. Across the country, the median level of debt for the class of 2015 was $183,000, not including accrued interest.

The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is a consortium of the 16 public and private medical schools throughout New York State. AMSNY’s mission is to promote high quality and cost-efficient health care by assuring that the medical schools of New York State can provide outstanding medical education, care and research. The combined total of New York’s medical schools economic impact equals more than $85.6 billion. This means $1 in every $13 in the New York economy is related to AMSNY medical schools and their primary hospital affiliates. For more information on AMSNY, please visit:

Letter to New York Delegation on NIH Funding

Dear Senator/Representative

On behalf of the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), which represents New York State’s 16 public and private medical schools, we would like to express our strong concerns about the Administration’s proposed $7.2 billion reduction to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the FY2018 budget, and the proposed 10% cap on NIH Facilities and Administration (F&A) expenditures. If enacted, either of these proposals would prove devastating to the biomedical community in New York and we urge you to strongly reject these cuts. AMSNY joins the hundreds of biomedical research and patient advocacy organizations around the nation seeking $36.2 billion for NIH in FY2018.

New York State is unmatched in its concentration of world-class research institutions, which contribute significantly to medical advances and to the state’s innovation economy. New York ranks third in the nation in NIH funding, with approximately $2.2 billion accruing annually to our medical schools, research institutes and biopharmaceutical ventures. NIH funding supports more than 31,000 jobs at 176 institutions across the state. An analysis commissioned by AMSNY found that every dollar invested in academic medical centers yields more than $7.50 in economic activity in the state. In short, biomedical research is fundamental to New York State’s economy; any reductions in funding will have very real impacts on employment and growth in our life sciences sector.

F&A expenditures are an essential component of the research enterprise. Although sometimes referred to as indirect costs, F&A costs are in fact very directly related to research, including the actual costs of the researcher’s own laboratory (e.g., key laboratory employees, high-speed data processing, energy, and utilities), as well as required institution-wide costs (e.g., security protections, patient safety measures and the personnel who provide administrative, regulatory and maintenance services). Academic institutions already make significant investments of their own resources in these types of expenditures. Universities are the second leading investor in academic research and development (R&D), comprising 24% of total academic R&D funding ($16.7B in FY2015). A substantial portion of universities’ investments pay for F&A costs not reimbursed by NIH.

The Administration has justified the proposed 10% cap by citing similar restrictions on private foundation grants such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Ford Foundation.

This comparison is inapt; indeed many foundations explicitly note that their categorizations of direct and indirect costs are different than those used by the federal government and should not be used for comparison. An analysis by the Council on Government Relations demonstrates that the effective F&A rate as a percentage of total funding is quite similar between the federal government and private foundations.

Any reductions in NIH F&A reimbursements represent real cuts to research, and will have the direct effect of shrinking research programs, reducing the number of scientists and support staff employed in the sector and slowing the pace of medical advancement. These proposed cuts would also be very dangerous in a global economy, in which other nations have recognized that increased investments in biomedical research drive both internal economic development and international stature.  We risk losing not only scientists, but also scientific discoveries, spin off companies, new therapies, and manufacturing companies to these countries.

On behalf of all your constituents – including scientists, physicians and patients – who value the important work done by our research community, we urge you to reject these proposals in the FY2018 budget and support continued robust investment in the NIH. Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.


Lee Goldman, M.D.
Chair, AMSNY
Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine
Chief Executive, Columbia University Medical Center

Michael E. Cain, M.D.
Vice Chair, AMSNY
Vice President for Health Sciences & Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the University at Buffalo

Mark B. Taubman, M.D.
Treasurer, AMSNY
Dean, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Chief Executive Officer, University of Rochester Medical Center

Dennis Charney, M.D.
Dean, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System

Augustine M.K. Choi, M.D.
Dean, Weill Cornell Medicine

Mantosh Dewan, M.D.
Interim Dean, College of Medicine
SUNY Upstate Medical University

Wolfgang Gilliar, D.O., FAAPMR
Dean, New York Institute of Technology
College of Osteopathic Medicine

Robert I. Grossman, M.D.
Dean and Chief Executive Officer,
NYU Langone Medical Center

Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D.
Senior Vice President of Health Sciences
Dean, Stony Brook University School of Medicine

Douglas Miller, M.D., C.M., M.B.A.
Vice-Provost for Biomedical Affairs
Dean, School of Medicine
New York Medical College

Carlos N. Pato, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, College of Medicine
Senior Vice President for Research, SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Lawrence G. Smith, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Dean, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine
Physician-in-Chief, Northwell Health System

Allen M. Spiegel, M.D.
Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Montefiore Medicine
Dean, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Kenneth J. Steier, D.O., M.B.A., M.P.H.
Executive Dean and Chief Academic Officer
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine

Maurizio Trevisan, M.D., M.S.
Dean, CUNY School of Medicine

Vincent P. Verdile, M.D.
The Lynne and Mark Groban M.D. ’67 Distinguished Dean, Albany Medical College
Senior Executive Vice President for System Care Delivery, Albany Medical Center