AMSNY Urges NYS Legislature to Expand ‘Diversity in Medicine’ Programs, Including New Program to Remove Barriers for Aspiring Black and Latino Doctors

Citing a lack of diverse doctors in New York, AMSNY also calls for  $1 million investment in highly-needed scholarship program

NEW YORK (February 20, 2019) – The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is urging the New York State Legislature to add $556,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1.244 million budget for AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine programs – including funding for a new program that will help underrepresented in medicine students overcome the barriers presented by the medical school application process.  AMSNY is also calling on the legislature to provide $1 million for the Diversity in Medicine Scholarship program, which would cover the cost of medical school tuition for 20 students.

“Patients achieve better health outcomes when they have a doctor who speaks the same language, understands their culture and has had similar life experiences,” said Jo Wiederhorn, President and CEO of AMSNY, a non-profit organization representing the 16 medical schools across the state.  A recent study showed that black males – who have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in the United States – were much more likely to agree to necessary tests and screenings if their doctors were black.  Many other studies have come to similar conclusions.

For the past 25 years, AMSNY has run successful diversity in medicine pipeline programs across New York State for students in high school through post-baccalaureate studies. Their programs provide various supports – from mentoring to advising, to academic enrichment, clinical and research skills development, financial support and referral and more – to enable ethnically diverse students to gain acceptance to medical school. Some 94% of students who completed their master’s program and 93% of those who entered the post-baccalaureate program went on to medical school.

“Oftentimes, students from underserved communities would like to become physicians and return to their communities to practice.  However, there are many obstacles which can stand in the way of these students fulfilling their dreams.  We’re calling on the state to increase their investment to help more students overcome these barriers,” continued Ms. Wiederhorn.   Underrepresented minorities, including Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, make up approximately 31.1% of New York’s population but only 12.1% of the state’s physician workforce.

In addition to increased investment for AMSNY’s long-standing and successful diversity pipeline programs, AMSNY is asking the state legislature to fund a new Enhanced Medical College Application Test (MCAT) Prep Program. The new program will expand the pipeline of diverse doctors by helping underrepresented students prep for the MCAT test as well as  address other core application elements such as interview preparation, assistance with essay writing, and referrals to additional free programs that help students apply to medical schools.

About 186,450 people took the MCAT test between 2015-2017. Of those, only 11% were Hispanic and 10% were black.  While the mean score for white and Asian students was 502, the mean score dropped to 495 for Hispanic students and 493 for black students.

AMSNY is also calling on the legislature to provide $1 million in funding for the Diversity in Medicine Scholarship Program.  Over the past two years, thanks to the legislature, and specifically Assembly members Blake and People-Stokes, 11 students have benefitted from this program, which covers the cost of medical school tuition. This cost is a significant barrier for many underrepresented in medicine students – the average debt for a medical school graduate is approaching $200,000, making medical school out of reach for too many.  The increased funding would enable AMSNY to cover the tuition for 20 students a year.

AMSNY’s state funding for diversity programs has dropped precipitously in the last decade. Ten years ago, the State Department of Health gave AMSNY $1.96 million for diversity programing for a total of 526 students. In the current budget proposal, AMSNY would receive just $1.244 million, which would cover about 430 students. AMSNY is requesting a budget increase to bring funding to $2 million.

“Our programs work.  We have enabled students to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and enter medical school,” Wiederhorn said. “We can help diverse students achieve their dreams and help get New Yorkers healthier by expanding diversity pipeline programs.”


Contact: Jaime Williams 347-361-7183