Introducing AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Scholarship Recipients for 2019-2020

10 Medical Students Awarded State-Funded Scholarships, Commit to Working in Underserved Areas

The Associated Medical Schools of New York is proud to introduce the 10 recipients of the 2019-2020 AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Scholarship, funded by the New York State Department of Health, thanks to support from the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican,  Hispanic and Asian Legislators.

The AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Scholarship is designed to provide physicians for underserved communities, while decreasing medical students’ debt load by removing financial barriers. 

The scholarship is pegged to the cost of SUNY medical school tuition, and is available to those students who have completed an AMSNY post-baccalaureate program and who commit to work in an underserved area in NYS upon completion of their medical education.

“We are proud to introduce this year’s scholarship awardees, who are each dedicated to improving health care in New York State as future doctors,” said Jo Wiederhorn, CEO of AMSNY.  “Their addition to the physician workforce will help diversify medicine and reduce health disparities, thanks to funding from the New York State Assembly.”


Undergraduate: Stony Brook University, BS (Health Science) ’16
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’17 
Medical School: State University of New York, Downstate College of Medicine, MD, ’21

Akya grew up in Brooklyn, New York, after her mother immigrated from Jamaica to secure better services for her son who is profoundly mentally disabled. Akya learned that while medical care was better in the United States, her mother and brother still struggled to access quality medicine and culturally competent care. This inequity led Akya to pursue a career in medicine but also instilled a drive to serve vulnerable communities and individuals who are chronically underserved. Akya is in Brooklyn starting her third year of medical school, where she has started various community service initiatives, participated in health disparities research projects on diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease, and will be joining a team to aid in a Medical Health Trip to Jamaica, where her roots originate. Akya describes a commitment to serve as an honor, rather than a requirement, and she is excited to work with an underserved community as a gastroenterologist after residency.

Undergraduate: University of Connecticut, BS (Biological Science), ’14
Post-Bac: State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MS (Medical Training), ’17 
Medical School: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD, ’21

Before moving to the Bronx at age 11, Diana lived in the Dominican Republic. After graduating from her eighth grade English as a Second Language (ESL) program, she attended high school without an ESL program and had to quickly learn the English language. In high school, she participated in a summer internship at St. Vincent Medical Center’s Emergency Department. It was through this program that she gained a deeper understanding of how important it is for physicians to provide quality care and to help patients make better health choices. After college, Diana worked as a Perinatal Health Coordinator at the Institute for Family Health providing health education and guidance to low-income pregnant women. Diana says that growing up in the Bronx, one of the poorest counties in the country, lead her to view advocacy and justice as an obligation for healthcare professionals. As a medical student, participating in the Summer Undergraduate Mentorship Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, she has learned more about the healthcare disparities affecting her community. Diana is starting her third year at Einstein and looks forward to providing proactive healthcare to underserved areas.

Undergraduate: Cornell University, BA (Sociology), ’12
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’16 
Medical School: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD, ’20

Sebastian grew up in a single-parent home in Brooklyn, New York, where his mother continually sacrificed for his well-being and led him to develop a passion of putting others first at a young age. Throughout high school, he helped translate for his grandmother when she saw the doctor since her physician was not fluent in Haitian-Creole. Even with the language barrier, Sebastian recalls that the physician served as an advocate, healer, and teacher for his grandmother which led him to also pursue a career as a doctor. Sebastian looks forward to serving a medically underserved community because he grew up in one himself and feels it is his duty to return the service. Sebastian is starting his fourth and final year at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has been inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society and appointed to serve on Einstein’s Medical Education Council, ensuring that the medical school curriculum is culturally sensitive to the diverse patient population of the surrounding Bronx community. Sebastian has a long-term goal of establishing a healthcare center in an underserved area to offer holistic and culturally appropriate care.


Undergraduate: Yale University, BA (History of Science/History of Medicine), ’07
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’16 
Medical School: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences, MD, ’20

Natasha was born and raised in The Bronx, NY and is currently a fourth-year medical student at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She spent many years working at a federally qualified health center in the South Bronx before working diligently to get into medical school through the AMSNY Post-Baccalaureate Program. Receiving the Diversity in Medicine scholarship has allowed her to focus less on medical student debt and more on the type of physician she wants to be. During clinical rotations, Natasha enjoyed building relationships with patients and is excited to be applying to Family Medicine Residency Programs. As a family physician, she wants to serve and collaborate with underserved communities in order to improve health outcomes and provide quality care. Natasha is looking forward to finishing medical school and starting her training where she can learn how to best care for patients of all ages.


Undergraduate: Pomona College, BA (Spanish), ’09
Doctorate: New York University, PhD (Latin American & Latina/o Literatures and Cultures), ’16
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’19 
Medical School: SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, MD, ’23

Antía’s interest in becoming a physician emerged from her personal experiences as a transgender Latina and first-generation college student. As a child of Mexican immigrants, Antía grew up in an agricultural town with minimal access to medical care. These experiences led her to pursue health studies and Latina/o literature. During her transition, Antía learned to advocate for herself and built strong relationships with physicians who respected her gender expression and ethnic backgrounds. It was then that she made the decision to pursue a career in medicine. Currently, Antía is a first-year medical student at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. As a transgender woman of color with access to the science and practice of medicine, Antía hopes to provide culturally humble patient education, preventative medicine, and disease treatment for those in her communities.

Undergraduate: Russell Sage College, BA (Psychology), ’15
Post-Bac: State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MS (Medical Technology), ’19
Medical School: State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’23

Deashia grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she experienced, first-hand,  healthcare disparities in a medically underserved community. Her passion for medicine was ignited in high school when she participated in the NYU School of Medicine High School Fellows Program. She attended an all-women’s college, where she learned about the inequalities that women face in society, especially in medicine. After college and while applying to medical school, Deashia served as an AmeriCorps volunteer being a patient educator in a women’s homeless shelter and at various homeless shelter clinics throughout NYC. Deashia was offered the opportunity to attend medical school through the AMSNY/Upstate University Medical School’s Master’s in Medical Technology and is currently a first-year student at SUNY Upstate Medical University. These experiences have inspired her to advocate for and serve underserved and underrepresented populations. She looks forward to empowering and to providing comprehensive care to her future patients.

Undergrad: State University of New York at Stony Brook, BS (Psychology, Biology, Business Management), ’10
Graduate: Rutgers University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, MS (Biomedical Sciences), ’14
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’15 
Medical School: State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’20

As the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, Nathalie is the first in her family to graduate from college, graduate school, and later this academic year, medical school. Nathalie’s compassion and interest in the care of others was founded though her extensive volunteering experiences serving nursing home residents, at-risk youth, and hospital Emergency Department patients. Her clinical work experiences as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), Surgical Medical Assistant, and Clinical Research Coordinator empowered her to take a proactive approach to healthcare. After graduate school and completing her research thesis on wound healing, Nathalie participated in the AMSNY Post-Bac Program at University at Buffalo, and then began medical school at SUNY Upstate Medical University. During her rotations, she connected with Spanish-speaking patients and realized her passion to treat and advocate for people from backgrounds similar to hers. She is committed to becoming a physician who cares for the underserved while also providing the best medical care regardless of socioeconomic status. Nathalie is currently a fourth-year medical student pursuing a Family Medicine residency with interests in adolescent, reproductive, and immigrant health needs.

Undergraduate: State University of New York at Buffalo, BS (Biological Sciences), ’16
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’18 
Medical School: State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’22

Michael realized that his life goal was to become a physician based on his desire to educate and empower those living in underserved communities. Michael grew up in an underserved community in Queens, New York. From an early age, he experienced and observed inequities in the provision of healthcare as a result of a lack of trust between patients and physicians. Michael excelled in his academics and is now a second-year student at SUNY Upstate Medical University. As President of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Chapter at Upstate, he leads efforts focused on the needs and concerns of black medical students. He is an active participant in programs such as Safe Spaces and Zhonta House, where he encourages and advises youth of color. This has shaped his goal to use education to serve his patients. He looks forward to delivering comprehensive healthcare and mentorship to those communities especially in need.

Undergraduate: Union College, BS (Biological Sciences), ’18
Post-Bac: University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences (AMSNY), ’19 
Medical School: State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’23

Samantha was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, where she has observed throughout her lifetime, how medical care is delivered to an underserved area. Her desire to return to this community as a provider has stemmed from working as a pediatrics volunteer for four years at the Syracuse Community Health Center (SCHC), a federally qualified health center. In Schenectady, New York, Samantha volunteered at the Sunnyview Rehabilitation Center and worked with patients who experienced life-altering, traumatic injuries. She later became an emergency department scribe at Ellis Hospital in hopes of decreasing the burden of documentation for physicians to enhance patient encounters. Samantha has also done research looking at racial disparities in healthcare. Her love for Syracuse and passion for improving its health outcomes was reaffirmed when she chose to attend medical school at SUNY Upstate Medical University where she is now a first-year medical student.

Undergraduate: Syracuse University, BS (Psychology; Neuroscience), ’16
Post-Bac: Stony Brook University, MS (Biomedical Sciences), ’18 
Medical School: Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, MD, ’22

As the son of Jamaican immigrants living in an underserved area of the Bronx, NY, Emelio has had first-hand experience in a community that would greatly benefit from physicians of color. Emelio’s interest in medicine started when he lost his grandfather to a preventable illness. Inspired by his mother’s community healthcare activism, Emelio wants to become a healthcare leader treating and educating both patients and the larger community about disease prevention. His clinical experiences serving as an E.M.T. in the greater Syracuse area and also internationally in Cordoba, Argentina, fueled his desire to work with the underserved. As the first in his family and immediate community to attend graduate and medical school, Emelio has navigated through hurdles to excel in his education while working part-time and remaining an active mentor to inner city youth in his community. Emelio is now in his second year at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University and looks forward to helping patients in predominantly immigrant-populated, disadvantaged communities in New York State.



The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is a consortium of the 17 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:

Bronx News 12: Researchers to educate the public with Stem Cell Awareness Day

Researchers to educate the public with Stem Cell Awareness Day

For more than 15 years, Doctor Eric Bouhassira and his team have been researching stem cells at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They say their mission is to use stem cells to create new red blood cells.
According to Dr. Bouhassira, the red blood cells could help many. He says it could help someone with sickle cell disease, who sometimes need a very rare blood type, which could be replaced in this way.
One way they are spreading the message is through Stem Cell Awareness Day. They are aiming to educate the public by hosting the event on Wednesday.
Jo Wiederhorn is the president and CEO of the Associated Medical Schools of New York and is advocating for research. The Associated Medical Schools of New York is a non-profit that represents all of the state medical schools.
The work being done in labs across the state involving stem cells in hopes of treating and curing conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and various forms of cancer.
However, researchers say they need a lot of funding because the research is very expensive. They say the federal government no longer supports stem cell research.
Researchers say anything that has advanced the work they have been doing for the past 10 years has come from the state.

Associated Medical Schools of New York’s Diversity in Medicine Programs Receives INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine’s 2019 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award

National Recognition of Programs That Are Making a Difference for All Underrepresented Groups in the Fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

New York, New York—Today, the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY)’s Diversity in Medicine Programs received the 2019 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). AMSNY will be featured, along with 49 other recipients, in the September 2019 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. 

Inspiring Programs in STEM Award winners were selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity based on efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, and successful programs and initiatives. 

“We are so thrilled to be recognized for our efforts to diversify the physician workforce in New York State, and reduce disparities in health care,” said Jo Wiederhorn, President and CEO of AMSNY. “Our Diversity in Medicine programs would not be possible without the fantastic faculty leading the way at our host medical schools, working to train future doctors from underrepresented backgrounds. Our successful track record is credited to them.”

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine selected AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Programs because of their proven track record of success – about 94 percent of students who complete one of AMSNY’s four post-baccalaureate Diversity in Medicine programs go on to medical school. Over the past 25 years, hundreds of doctors from underrepresented backgrounds have successfully completed medical school as a result.

AMSNY’s programs are designed to provide opportunities for high-potential students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine who do not initially receive an acceptance offer from a medical school. They include a Post-Baccalaureate Program at Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, the Interdisciplinary Basic Medical Sciences Master’s Program at New York Medical College, the Physiology and Biophysics Master’s Program at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, and the Medical Scholars Master’s Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

A call for nominations for this award was announced in April 2019. 

For more information about the 2019 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award and INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, visit 


About INSIGHT Into Diversity  

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education today and is known for its annual INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, the only award that recognizes colleges and universities for outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts across their campuses. INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine presents timely, thought-provoking news and feature stories on matters of diversity and inclusion in higher education and beyond. Articles include interviews with innovators and experts, as well as explorations of best practices and profiles of exemplary programs. In our Career Center, readers will also discover career opportunities that connect job seekers with institutions and businesses that embrace a diverse and inclusive workforce. Current, archived, and digital issues of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine are available online at


The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is a consortium of the 17 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:

New York State Budget Addresses Health Disparities with Funding for Diversity in Medicine Programs, Scholarship

The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), on Behalf of Underrepresented in Medicine Students, Thanks the Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus  

(New York, NY) – On behalf of all 16 medical schools in New York State, and particularly medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine, the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) commends NY State legislators for providing level funding for AMSNY Diversity in Medicine programs in the FY2020 budget.

“AMSNY Diversity in Medicine programs, funded by the NYS Department of Health, have a 94+ percent success rate and have produced hundreds of doctors who often practice in underserved communities and work to reduce health care disparities in our state,” said Jo Wiederhorn, CEO of AMSNY.  “The return on investment for New York is enormous and we are especially grateful to Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assembly Member Michael Blake, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, Senator Jamaal Bailey, Senator Tim Kennedy, Senator Luis Sepulveda, as well as the entire Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus, and the Hispanic Task Force, for understanding this value and advocating for these programs.”

These state-funded programs are crucial, as a lack of diversity in medicine persists in New York State. Underrepresented minorities (Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos) make up approximately 31% of New York’s population but only 12% of the state’s physician workforce, according to data from the SUNY Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies.

This lack of representation has implications for medical care across the state, as research shows that patients who have doctors from similar racial or ethnic backgrounds have better medical experiences. Additionally, physicians from underrepresented minority groups are more likely to practice primary care and practice in low-income and underserved areas.

AMSNY’s state-funded Diversity in Medicine Program has enabled more than 500 students from ethnic/racial backgrounds which are underrepresented in medicine (and/or from economically or educationally underserved areas) to become doctors. The programs include the 28-year-old, one-year post-baccalaureate program at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, and three post-baccalaureate/master’s programs at New York Medical College, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University School, and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

The new budget also includes funds for diversity in medicine scholarships, which cover the cost of tuition for 1 year for 10 students who graduated from AMSNY post-baccalaureate programs. The cost of medical school tuition is among the biggest barriers to entry for underrepresented in medicine students.

Bronx News 12: Bronx pediatrician works to help under-served immigrant community

Posted: Mar 20, 2019 7:49 AM EDT
Updated: Mar 20, 2019 7:49 AM EDT


According to health officials, there are many Spanish-speaking families in the Bronx that have trouble finding a provider that can speak their language.

A Bronx-based caregiver is making it his goal to make sure more Spanish-speaking families can receive the care they need.

“I saw working and training in the Bronx, that there was a big need for Spanish-speaking doctors here,” says Dr. David Aguirre.

Dr. Aguirre works as a pediatrician with the Montefiore Medical Group in the Grand Concourse.

He believes that there is a major miscommunication in patient care when it comes to Spanish-speaking patients that are being treated by English-speaking doctors.

“There are a number of studies that have shown that there are better health care outcomes if a patient can relate to their physician,” says Jo Wiederhorn, president of AMSNY.

Dr. Aguirre says in his experience those studies are proving to be true.

“I can connect with them in terms of the language and also through shared experiences,” says Dr. Aguirre.

According to the Associated Medical Schools of New York, only 6 percent of doctors in New York are Latino.

“It compelled me even more to be able to serve under-served populations,” says Dr. Aguirre. “It helps to be able to understand where they’re coming from and to be able to help them navigate the medical system here in the U.S. Which can be difficult for new patients to this country for the first time.”

Read the article  and watch the interview:

El Diario: Se necesita más apoyo para que haya más diversidad en la medicina


Se necesita más apoyo para que haya más diversidad en la medicina
El 31% de la población del estado de Nueva York son latinos y afroamericanos, pero solo representamos el 12% de los médicos. FOTO: ARCHIVO / SHUTTERSTOCK

Crecí en Chiquinquirá, Colombia, y cuando era chico, mi héroe era el médico del pueblo; el único médico para más de 40,000 residentes. Hacía todo, desde sacar dientes hasta controlar la presión sanguínea y traer bebés al mundo. Yo quería ser justo como él; ser médico y servir a las personas de mi comunidad.

Pero, mi sueño de convertirme en médico parecía ser una disparatada fantasía infantil.

A pesar de haberme graduado de la secundaria en Bogotá con notas altas, tuve que trabajar en las minas de esmeralda para mantenerme y ayudar a mi familia. 

A los 19, llegué a los Estados Unidos con una visa de estudiante. Sabía muy poco inglés y tuve que tomar trabajos eventuales para poder llegar a la universidad. Y mi sueño aún parecía muy lejano.

Sin embargo, rápidamente me di cuenta de que aquí había muchas oportunidades, especialmente en Nueva York, donde los programas habían sido diseñados para ayudar a un niño como yo a triunfar.

Entonces, me convertí en médico.  De hecho, en cirujano.  Y en el director de Neurocirugía del Hospital Presbyterian Queens de Nueva York.

Lo logré gracias a un programa fundado por el Estado de Nueva York que ayuda a los latinos, personas de color y otros estudiantes de minorías a entrar a las escuelas de medicina. Por más de 25 años, el Estado de Nueva York ha apoyado los programas de diversidad en medicina, puestos en práctica por Escuelas Médicas Asociadas sin Fines de Lucro de Nueva York (AMSNY, por sus siglas en inglés).  Han ayudado a muchas personas como yo a convertirse en médicos.

Y tanto las personas como las comunidades se benefician.  En la actualidad, el 80 por ciento de mis pacientes son latinos.  Muchos hablan poco inglés. Para ellos, es un gran alivio contar con un médico que entienda su cultura. Los estudios muestran que las personas de color tienen muchas más probabilidades de lograr mejores resultados médicos si su médico se ve como ellos y habla su idioma.

Lamentablemente, aún hay muchas personas que no reciben el cuidado que merecen. Y hay muchos estudiantes parecidos a mí que necesitan un poco de apoyo adicional para convertirse en médicos. Las estadísticas lo dicen todo: El 31% de la población del Estado son latinos y afroamericanos, pero solo representamos el 12% de los médicos en el Estado.

Si no hubiese tenido la oportunidad que ofrece AMSNY, hoy no sería médico. Más gente joven necesita la misma oportunidad. 

Nuestros oficiales electos en el Estado están tomando decisiones sobre el presupuesto del próximo año.  Deben asegurarse de incluir más apoyo a la diversidad en los programas de medicina.

-Jaime Nieto es el Jefe de Cirugía Neurológica en el Hospital Presbyterian Queens de Nueva York y ayudante de Cátedra de Clínica Medica de cirugía neurológica en Weill Cornell Medicine.

Read the article online:

Buffalo News: Another Voice: New York Medical Schools Benefit From Diversity

By Dr. Jonathan Daniels

Twenty-five years ago I got the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to go to medical school and become a doctor. I have been fortunate enough to serve the Buffalo community I grew up in ever since.

Like many young African-American men back then, I lacked the resources, the guidance and the preparation it took to get into medical school.

Today there are as few African-American men in medical schools across the country as there were 25 – and even 50 – years ago. We need to do more to help more young black men and women fulfill that dream.

We also need more African-American doctors because there is a significant gap between the numbers of African-American patients and African-American physicians. We know from years of research that patients are healthier when they have doctors who look like them and are from similar backgrounds.

I joined the United States Army Reserve 365th Evacuation Hospital as a combat medic and served proudly during Operation Desert Storm. After my services, I returned to Buffalo to complete my undergraduate degree.

Today, I know there are many nontraditional paths – like mine – to medical school. I also know that too many students continue to be discouraged from pursuing careers in medicine for various reasons.

Despite advice to the contrary, I applied to medical school. As a Buffalo native, the medical school at UB, now known as the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, was an obvious choice.

My application was wait-listed. And that’s when the real opportunity came.

In 1991, the Associated Medical Schools of New York, a nonprofit that works with all the medical schools in the state, launched a post-baccalaureate program at UB. The program, which has been funded by New York State for almost two decades, guarantees medical school admission to everyone who successfully completes the program. The goal is to diversify the physician workforce.

New York State needs to invest more in programs like the AMSNY post-bac program and other programs that create a pipeline to medical school for more young African-Americans, Latino and Latina students and others underrepresented in medicine.

Dr. Jonathan Daniels is a pediatrician at Main Pediatrics and associate director of admissions, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

Read the article online: 

USA Today: After decades of effort, African-American enrollment in medical school still lags

, USA TODAY NETWORK, Published 11:11 a.m. ET Feb. 28, 2019 



These are the 10 black men in University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s first year class at their “White Coat Ceremony,” (Photo: Colleen Kelley/University of Cincinnati)



WASHINGTON – Gabriel Felix is on track to graduate from Howard University’s medical school in May.

The 27-year-old from Rockland County, N.Y., has beaten the odds to make it this far, and knows he faces challenges going forward.

He and other black medical school students have grown used to dealing with doctors’ doubts about their abilities, and other slights: being confused with hospital support staff, or being advised to pick a nickname because their actual names would be too difficult to pronounce.

“We’re still on a steady hill toward progress,” says Felix, president of the Student National Medical Association, which represents medical students of color. But “there’s still a lot more work to do.”

After decades of effort to increase the ranks of African-American doctors, blacks remain an underrepresented minority in the nation’s medical schools.

USA TODAY examined medical school enrollment after the wide coverage of the racially controversial photo that appeared in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook entry of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. The picture showed one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

The proportion of medical students who identified as African-American or black rose from 5.6 percent in 1980 to 7.7 percent in 2016, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That’s a substantial increase but still short of the 13.2 percent in the general population.

The disparity matters, physicians, students and others say, because doctors of color can help the African-American community overcome a historical mistrust of the medical system – a factor in poorer health outcomes for black Americans.

“It’s been a persistent, stubborn racial disparity in the medical workforce,” says Dr. Vanessa Gamble, a professor at George Washington University. “Medical schools have tried, but it also has to do with societal issues about what happens to a lot of kids in our country these days.”

Those who have studied the disparity blame much of it on socioeconomic conditions, themselves the legacy of systemic racism. African Americans lag other Americans in household income and educational opportunity, among other indicators.

Medical schools and professional organizations have tried to boost enrollment and graduation rates by considering applicants’ socioeconomic backgrounds when reviewing grades and test scores, connecting doctors of color with elementary and middle schools and awarding more scholarship money.

They’ve achieved some success: The number of medical students who identified as African-American or black grew from 3,722 in 1980 to 6,758 in 2016, an 82 percent increase.

Individual schools have outperformed their peers.

Eastern Virginia Medical School has increased the enrollment of students of color since then. In 1984, 5 percent of M.D. students identified as black, the only category then available. In the school’s most recent class, 12.4 percent identified as African, African-American, Afro-Caribbean or black.

But further progress toward a more representative student body nationwide remains elusive. That’s due largely to the high cost of medical school – student loans average $160,000 and can take decades to pay off – and the attraction of other professional options available to the strongest minority students that cost less and require fewer years of training.

The benefits of greater enrollment could be considerable: Studies show that having more black doctors would likely improve black health in the United States. Many African-Americans remain mistrustful of the health care system, with some historic justification, and so are less likely than others to seek preventative or other care.

Gamble knows the phenomenon as well as anyone. She chaired a committee that investigated the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the notorious experiment conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972. Researchers withheld treatment from a group of black men with syphilis to study the progress of the disease, jeopardizing their health and that of their sexual partners.

Building pipelines to medical school  

Universities are working to boost minority enrollment and increase the likelihood that students will stay in school and pass the exams required to graduate and get licensed to practice.

Dr. Thomas Madejski is president of the Medical Society of the State of New York.  (Photo: Medical Society of the State of New York)

Dr. Thomas Madejski, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, says efforts such as the American Medical Association’s Doctors Back to School program, in which physicians of color visit grade schools, help encourage minority students consider careers in medicine.

But he cautions that such programs don’t address all of the socioeconomic hurdles confronting African Americans.

“I think we may have to relook at some of the factors that may still be barriers and create some new initiatives to overcome those and get the citizens of the U.S. to have the physician workforce that they want and need,” Madejski says.

His group and others are pushing for tuition relief and expansion of scholarship programs for underrepresented groups.

Gabriel Felix is a fourth year student at Howard University’s medical school and president of the Student National Medical Association.  (Photo: Courtesy of Gabriel Felix)

Felix, the Howard student, calls for more outreach by physicians of color, particularly in African American communities.

Felix’s parents are from Haiti, where black doctors are a common sight. They could easily envision the career for their son. African-American parents, however, might not encourage their children as much, Felix says.  

Dr. Mia Mallory is associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Cincinnati medical school.

“Patients do better when they are taken care of by people who look like them,” she says. “So we’re trying to grow talented physicians that look like them and are more likely to go back into the community they came from.”

Dr. Mia Mallory is associate dean in the office of diversity and inclusion and an associate professor in pediatrics at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. (Photo: University of Cincinnati College of Medicine)

Some of what’s being done:

New York. About a third of the state’s population is black and/or Latino, but only 12 percent of doctors in practice are. The decision of New York University’s decision to offer free tuition to medical students who maintain a certain grade point average has more than doubled the number of applicants who identify as a member of a group that’s underrepresented in medicine.

Associated Medical Schools of New York, which represents the state’s 16 public and private medical schools, says several programs give college students academic help, mentoring or other aid, and guarantee medical school acceptance upon completion.

About 500 practicing physicians from underrepresented groups graduated from one of these programs at University at Buffalo.

These were “kids who otherwise never would have gotten into medical school,” says Jo Wiederhorn, president of Associated Medical Schools of New York.

The share of black and Latino students at medical school rose from 13.5 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 15.4 percent for the past school year, Wiederhorn said.

Maryland. University of Maryland, Baltimore County, produces more African-Americans who go on to earn dual M.D./Ph.D. degrees than any college in the country.

Its Meyerhoff Scholars program selects promising high school students for a rigorous undergraduate program that connects them with research opportunities, conferences, paid internships, and study-abroad experiences. The program is open to all people, but nearly 70 percent of the scholars are black.

The university also sends students in its Sherman Scholars program to teach math and science in disadvantaged elementary schools in the Baltimore area. That helps build an early pipeline to the university and its science and math programs.

UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III says, “We’re going to find some prejudice wherever we go.” But he prefers to look for solutions that keep students of color in math and science, which increases their chances of medical school acceptance.

University of Cincinnati. The College of Medicine welcomed the largest group of African-American men in its history last year at 10 – an important milestone, given the gender gap within the few black doctors.          

Mallory says the school looks at students’ applications “holistically,” considering “what it took for them to get where they are.” That includes whether they had to work while they were in college and whether they had access to tutors.

The school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion hired Dr. Swati Pandya, a physician and learning specialist, to teach medical school students how to take standardized tests and improve study habits.

All of the school’s third-year students last year passed the first of their medical licensing exams, achieving the highest average in the school’s and the highest of any medical school in the state.

Why so few?

Dr. Georges Benjamin executive director of the American Public Health Association, cites the criminal justice system’s targeting of young black men and the pull of other professions for others.

“The cream of the crop has a broader portfolio of things they can do,”  Benjamin says. “They can go into other disciplines, including MBA and law programs.”

Dr. Garth Graham is a cardiologist by training, but in a nearly 20-year career, he has become something akin to a doctor of disparities.

A former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, he’s Aetna’s vice president of community health and president of the Aetna Foundation.

He also chairs the Harvard Medical School Diversity Fund, which supports science, technology, engineering and math education and other support for minority students and faculty members in kindergarten through grade 12.

The National Bureau of Economic Research studied African-American men’s use of preventive health services when they had black and non-black doctors. The bureau reported last year that black doctors could reduce black men’s deaths from heart disease by 16 deaths per 100,000 every year. That would reduce the gap between black and white men by 19 percent.

Black doctors “bring a cultural understanding because of their background in their communities,” Graham says. “Relatability is important in patient-doctor relationships.”

Contributing: Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star

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NBC News: Academic Programs Aim to Close Diversity Gap in Medicine

By Shamard Charles, M.D.

Braxton Jenkins, 19, with Dr. Clyde Yancy, vice dean for diversity and inclusion at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Jenkins is a graduate of the Northwestern Medicine Scholars Program.Courtesy of Braxton Jenkins and Dr. Clyde Yancy


Currently, only 10.3 percent of American med school grads are black or Latino, but efforts like the Northwestern Medicine Scholars Program are trying to fix that.

Blacks and Latinos make up more than 30 percent of the U.S. population, but only 10.3 percent of medical school graduates, a number that hasn’t changed much in 50 years. It’s a stark reminder that even though the U.S. population is becoming more diverse, medicine isn’t.

Now, universities and community organizations around the country are working together to reverse this trend.

One effort is the Northwestern Medicine Scholars Program at Westinghouse College Prep, a public high school in Chicago. Founded in 2011 by Dr. Erica Marsh, formerly at Northwestern and now an OB-GYN at the University of Michigan, the partnership offers Westinghouse students a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of doctors and scientists by providing mentoring with physicians and researchers, intensive summer and test prep courses, and college entrance support. The only requirements are a 3.2 GPA and a genuine desire to pursue math or science studies.

The Northwestern scholars program is run by Dr. Clyde Yancy, vice dean for diversity and inclusion at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago.

“These young people are from families that have very limited economic means, yet we are extracting and providing them with a different kind of experience that says, ‘No, you can do this,’ ” Yancy told NBC News.

And the students seem to be heeding the message.

Sixty students have been Northwestern Medicine scholars, all chosen in ninth grade. So far, all of the scholars have graduated from high school and nearly 100 percent have gone on to college — one student pursued an associate’s degree in nursing and now works at Northwestern Medical Hospital — with all the college-bound students receiving significant scholarship assistance, Yancy said. Among the colleges attended by the program’s graduates are the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Sixty percent of the scholars pursue science, technology, engineering or math majors in college; are in premed tracks; or are in health care-related fields, such as nursing, said Janet Rocha, an assistant professor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

Most of the scholars chosen are from struggling families with no tradition of higher education, Yancy said. “What is most remarkable is that 60 percent of the students receive school lunch assistance — an index of socioeconomic stress — and 80 percent are from college-naïve families,” said Yancy.

“We have effectively developed a pipeline program that attracts a diverse group,” he continued. “If only one student makes it through high school, attends college, graduates, seeks a professional degree and then returns home to serve as a role model, then our program has been successful.”

Other academic organizations, like the Associated Medical Schools of New York, also run diversity programs aimed at increasing the number of minority students in medical school. One way is to lower financial barriers — the average debt for a medical school graduate is approaching $200,000, the group says, putting medical school out of reach for many minorities.

On Wednesday, the New York group, which represents all 16 public and private medical schools in the state, urged the state Legislature to increase funding for the group’s Diversity in Medicine scholarship program to $1 million, to cover one year of medical school tuition for 20 students. Scholarship winners must agree to work in underserved areas of the state after completing their education.

“We are specifically targeting black and Latino kids to increase ethnic diversity in medical schools,” Jaime Williams, a spokeswoman for the organization, told NBC News on Friday.

This year, the inaugural class of Northwestern scholars will graduate from college. Of the six students in the class, four are pursuing graduate degrees — two are going to medical school and the others are seeking master’s degrees in public health and health administration, Yancy said.

Braxton Jenkins, 19, a student at Valparaiso University in Indiana, says the scholars program changed his life.

“It was the best part of high school. They provided me with a network and an environment that encourages students to enter STEM fields,” said Jenkins, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “It just really makes a difference. I’m in college and those memories motivate me and I cannot be more grateful for them.”

Jenkins, who grew up on the west side of Chicago, says the program is successful because it provides unique experiences like the opportunity to participate in scientific research, along with discussions on implicit bias and microaggression and its effect on people.

“We had candid discussions about what it would be like being a person of color in college,” said Jenkins, who is black. “That really prepares you for anything. Currently, I want to study solar panels and energy, but I keep medicine in the back of my mind.”

Yancy said he hopes that programs like Northwestern’s become a national model for scholastic excellence for underrepresented populations, especially in light of a 2016 Association of American Medical Colleges report that showed a marked decrease in the number of African-American medical students, particularly black men, across the country from 1978 to 2014.

From 1978 to 2015, 78.6 percent of graduates of U.S. medical schools were white or Asian, the report said. Blacks, American Indians and Hispanics together made up the remaining 21.4 percent.

Black doctors are better equipped to advocate for black patients because of their shared cultural experiences, said Dr. Dale Okorodudu, president and founder of DiverseMedicine, a web-based mentoring organization.

    Braxton Jenkins, 19, at his construction internship with F.H. Paschen.

“It was the best part of high school,” Jenkins said of his time as a Northwestern Medicine scholar.Courtesy of Braxton Jenkins

“America needs more black doctors so they can have a choice, but also to have more access to providers who are culturally connected to them — who understand their lives and their challenges as much as their clinical needs,” said Okorodudu, who is also founder ofBlack Men in White Coats, which hosted its first youth summit a little more than a week ago in Dallas.

“And young people need to see doctors too,” he added. “If you have a vision of what you want to be in life it keeps you on track.”

Racial disparities exist throughout medicine. One of the most severe is the racial disparity in U.S. maternal mortality rates for black women. Each year in the United States, about 700 women die as a result of pregnancy or delivery issues, while 50,000 experience severe complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes nationwide; in New York City, they are 12 times more likely to die.

“Disparities can be narrowed with more cultural competency — that is, being open, understanding and willing to explain,” Dr. Otis Brawley, professor of oncology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview.

“It’s not that the drugs don’t work in blacks or simply that we don’t have enough blacks in clinical research, it’s that black people often don’t get the drugs or adequate treatment to overcome disparities.”

Experts believe that adding more black scientists and doctors to the pipeline is one way to narrow racial disparities in medicine. Studies have shown not only that black professionals return to their communities to help later in their careers more often than white professionals do, but also that black patients are far more likely to agree to certain preventive health tests if they discussed them with a black doctor.

“We live in a world that is changing,” said Yancy. “Within one to two decades there will no longer be a majority population. If we are to serve the entirety of the U.S. population, we need to evolve a workforce that resembles the population and enables best care for everyone.”

“The task is daunting, but the opportunities are there when all the very best thoughts and ideas are considered, from wherever or whomever they originate.”

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