AMSNY CEO Testifies at NYC Council Committee on Higher Ed Hearing About CUNY Diversity in Medicine Pipeline Programs

Testimony of:

Jo Wiederhorn, President & CEO Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) Oversight Hearing – Pursuing a Career in Health Care at the City University of New York  Committee on Higher Education New York City Council January 17, 2019 10:00 am 250 Broadway, 14th Floor Committee Room, New York, NY Good morning, Chairwoman Barron and other distinguished members of the committee. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on pursuing health careers at the City University of New York. My name is Jo Wiederhorn, President & CEO of the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), the consortium of the sixteen public and private medical schools in New York State, eight of which are located within New York City’s five boroughs. AMSNY works in partnership with its members to promote high-quality and cost-efficient health care by ensuring that New York State’s medical schools provide outstanding medical education, patient care and biomedical research. AMSNY strongly believes in the importance of a multifaceted strategy to meet the growing demand for primary care and specialty physicians, while simultaneously tackling the current need to decrease access issues in underserved areas. As such, through our Diversity in Medicine Program AMSNY has overseen diversity programs designed to increase the number of underrepresented students going into medicine and biomedical sciences since 1985. CUNY School of Medicine (CUNY), formerly Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, is one of our member institutions and we have been supporting programs at both CUNY and the City College of New York (CCNY) for close to 20 years.

AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Program

According to the SUNY Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies, while African American/Blacks and Latino/Hispanics make up 31% of the New York State population, they accounted for approximately 12% of the State’s physician workforce between 2011-2015. Increasing racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is important because evidence indicates that diversity is associated with improved access to care for racial and ethnic minority patients, greater patient choice and satisfaction as well as better educational experiences for health professions students. As such, increasing the number of physicians from communities underrepresented in medicine (URIM) practicing in the state is vital to the health of New Yorkers. Since 1985, AMSNY has supported an array of pipeline programs across the state with the intent of expanding the pool of students choosing careers in health and medicine. The goal of these programs is to provide academic enrichment and support to students from educationally and/or economically underserved backgrounds. These programs provide an opportunity that a majority of participants would not have had due to cultural and financial barriers. AMSNY oversees six core programs as part of its Diversity in Medicine grant that ultimately leads students into medical school, including a post-baccalaureate program at the Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo (UB); and three master’s degree post-baccalaureate programs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, and New York Medical College. These programs are unique in that students must first apply to a New York State medical school and be interviewed by the school’s admissions committee. If the admissions committee believes the student would be a good addition to the school, they will recommend him/her to one of the four post-bac programs. If, upon completion of the post-baccalaureate program, the student meets the program and the referring school’s requirements, he/she will automatically be accepted into the referring medical school. As you will see in the attachment, 93% of students that participate in AMSNY’s UB post- baccalaureate program enter medical school, and 85% graduate. In our master’s degree post- baccalaureate programs, 94% of the students enter medical school. The other core programs provide support for an academic learning center at CUNY School of Medicine – a seven-year BS/MD program that students enter directly from high school; and a research program at CCNY that links junior and senior undergraduate students with NIH-funded researchers to prepare them for careers in medical school and/or the basic sciences.

CUNY School of Medicine Academic Learning Center

AMSNY supports the CUNY School of Medicine Learning Resource Center (LRC) which provides academic support to students who enter the seven-year school directly from high school and graduate with a BS/MD degree. Since its inception, the LRC has provided thousands of counseling and workshop hours to CUNY students. The LRC provides educational and academic support services and resources to all of the CUNY School of Medicine students, whether they are in the “undergraduate” (first three years leading to a BS degree) or “graduate” (last 4 years leading to an MD degree) portion of the school. Some of the key services offered through the LRC include: academic counseling and coaching through a pre-matriculation workshop which helps incoming freshmen transition to an accelerated college program, tutoring which is often provided in a peer-to-peer setting, as well as problem-based learning skills seminars, and early academic evaluation and intervention of “at-risk” students through standardized learning assessments. The LRC also provides seminars for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and mini-boards. Funding through the AMSNY helps the LRC meet the increasing needs and demands for academic and clinical support services from our undergraduate and medical students, especially students whose pre- college education has not sufficiently prepared them for the rigors of an accelerated college program, and subsequent medical curriculum. CUNY School of Medicine is also unique in that the students come from New York State, most are from racial and ethnic backgrounds which are underrepresented in medicine, and the school focuses on preparing students for careers in primary care. AMSNY and the LRC help prepare the next generation of physicians from New York to care for the population of New York City.  

City College of New York Pathways to Careers in Medicine and Research Program

The Pathways to Careers in Medicine and Research Program at CCNY provides stipend support to undergraduate science majors who are conducting research in laboratories within the Division of Science or in outside research facilities. In the past we have also been able to provide a small stipend to their mentors. Students engaged in research must spend a minimum of ten hours per week in the laboratory. Traditionally, most of the students must work in order to pay for their educational expenses at the sacrifice of research experience. The stipend support makes it possible for students to participate in research and still earn money, giving them the option not to work. The mentor support helps to cover research laboratory expenses. The purpose of the Pathways to Careers in Medicine and Research Program is to increase the likelihood that students who express an interest in a career in medicine or research are successful in their pursuit. The research component of the program helps to define their interests and set them apart from other graduate and medical school applicants. The students in the AMSNY/DOH Pathways to Careers in Medicine and Research Program present posters of their projects at scientific and professional conferences where they make connections with graduate and professional schools and programs, government agencies and research institutions. Presenting also assists students with interviewing skills, scientific fluency and strengthens all aspects of their graduate school applications. AMSNY has been following Pathways students as they move on from CCNY and have found that many of the students do pursue careers in the health sciences. From 2008 to 2018, 26 students have gone on to medical school and/or an MD/PhD program, 35 students have sought careers in the biomedical sciences, including PhD and master’s degree programs, working in research labs, as well as teaching, and 10 students have gone on to other health careers such as optometry and as physician assistants. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 13 students participated in the program each semester (At its height, AMSNY supported 30 students and mentors per semester). Of those students, the mean GPA was 3.51 with the students majoring in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry and English/Pre-Medical. All of the students presented scientific posters at the City College Academy for Professional Preparation (CCAPP) and three students presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). One student received a Fulbright Fellowship Award and another student was awarded an American Chemical Society Award. In closing, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify this morning. As you can see, AMSNY has been overseeing two very successful programs at CUNY—both of which are for underrepresented students who are interested in pursuing careers in the health professions. To further support these students and to aid them in their education we would like to expand our scholarship program to students who are in their final four years of CUNY School of Medicine and to increase the stipend for and number of students who participate in our Careers in Medicine and Research Program at CCNY. The expansion of these programs can be designed to include an obligation to work in New York City once the individual has completed his/her education.