AMSNY Report: Black and Hispanic Students Face Multiple Barriers to Becoming Doctors

Monday, March 2, 2020
Media Contact: Erin Clarke, (347) 831-1096, Jaime Williams, (347) 361-7183

AMSNY Report: Black and Hispanic Students Face Multiple Barriers to Becoming Doctors 

Report from the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) identifies key leaks in the pipeline for aspiring underrepresented doctors and offers recommendations to increase diversity in medicine

Best practices include funding post-baccalaureate programs and scholarships for underrepresented students like those run by AMSNY

(New York, NY) – The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), the consortium of the state’s 17 medical schools, released a report today entitled Addressing the Challenges to a Diverse Physician Workforce. The report details the barriers that prevent students who are underrepresented in medicine (URIM) from becoming doctors and presents recommendations to address leaks in the last stages of the pipeline – from college to medical school – for aspiring physicians.

Nationally there is a critical need to increase the number of medical students from underrepresented backgrounds (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American). A survey of U.S. medical schools found that 72% of applicants in the 2018-2019 academic year identified as White or Asian, while only 13.3% identified as Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino. In New York State, between 2011 and 2015, Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos were approximately 31% of the population, yet only 12% of the physician workforce.

“The need for physicians who are of the same racial or ethnic background as their patients is a priority as our communities continue to diversify,” said Jo Wiederhorn, President and CEO of AMSNY. “Studies show that when patients see physicians who are similar to themselves, they are more likely to seek out preventative care, spend longer time with their doctors and report higher satisfaction of care received. These are the keys to reducing health disparities.”

URIM students face myriad barriers to becoming doctors, such as the high cost of applying to medical school and a lack of guidance and preparation during their undergraduate experience. Studies show that subsequently, underrepresented students lose interest in pre-med academic paths after the first two years of college at higher rates than their White and Asian colleagues.

The AMSNY report found barriers for underrepresented students include:

  • First-generation students having to navigate undergraduate degrees on their own, without guidance from parents with firsthand knowledge of how the system works.
  • Receiving improper guidance and advice from college counselors about applying to medical school.
  • Having to work to pay tuition and/or provide support to their families, interfering with time dedicated to school and affecting grades and graduation rates. Only 11% of low-income students earn bachelor’s degrees within six years.
  • High costs associated with applying to medical school, including MCAT prep courses, which are necessary for all test-takers. Studies show Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino students score significantly lower on the MCAT.
  • The high cost of applications, travel to interviews, professional attire and more, adding up to nearly $10,000 or more.

The report provides recommendations to address the barriers underrepresented students face getting into medical school.

  • Mentoring/Peer Groups are linked to higher retention of students in STEM, research-related career paths and higher education. 
  • Application Preparatory Classes provide underrepresented students – some  of whom are the first in their families to navigate the medical school application process – with prep courses and personalized advising.
  • Direct Medical and Early Assurance Programs give students the opportunity to enter medical school upon completion of high school or after two years in college. These programs allow students to fully commit their efforts to becoming doctors, giving them peace of mind and in some instances completing both degrees in a shorter time, reducing the cost of tuition.
  • Post-Baccalaureate Programs focused on URIM students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds offer mentorship from faculty and staff who develop individualized educational plans over one- to two-year programs to strengthen students’ applications. Students receive formal mentoring, advising, financial assistance and tailored curricula.
  • Tuition Scholarships reduce financial stress so students can focus on their education. Research shows students who have sufficient funds for college have higher academic performance.

“With increased investment in post-baccalaureate, mentorship/peer programs and scholarships, URIM students can overcome the many barriers that exist on the path of becoming physicians. By investing in pipeline programs, states can increase primary care physicians, reduce health disparities among ethnic groups, and ultimately decrease health expenditures,” said Wiederhorn. “In New York State, we have a strong track record of state-funded post-baccalaureate programs and scholarships, yet these programs are consistently subjected to cuts when the research indicates they should in fact be expanded.”

The AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Program, funded by the New York State Department of Health, has helped more than 500 underrepresented in medicine students become doctors, the majority of whom are more likely to practice primary care, practice in underserved communities and stay in New York State after their education. A scholarship for graduates of AMSNY’s programs, funded by the state legislature, helps alleviate financial barriers for 10 underrepresented students each year who commit to practicing in underserved areas in New York State. 

After 29 years, AMSNY’s diversity in medicine program faced elimination in the Proposed FY2021 executive budget but was restored in budget amendments.

“We thank Governor Cuomo for restoring funding to the highly successful Diversity in Medicine program and making sure that this pathway for aspiring doctors endures,” continued Wiederhorn. “We are also immensely grateful to the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, especially Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assemblymember Michael Blake and Senator Jamaal Bailey for their tireless efforts in advocating for this program.” 


The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is the consortium of the 17 public and private medical schools in New York State. AMSNY works in partnership with its members to advance biomedical research, diversity in medical school and the physician workforce and high quality and cost-efficient care. 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: