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Syracuse.com: Boosting diversity in medicine also improves health outcomes

Head shot of Nakeia Chambers

Nakeia Chambers is director of Multicultural, Disability and Veterans Affairs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, in Syracuse. (Photo courtesy of SUNY Upstate Medical University)Photo courtesy of SUNY Upstate Medical University

Nakeia Chambers is director of Multicultural, Disability and Veterans Affairs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, in Syracuse.

The move to create greater diversity in medicine has received a huge boost in the awarding of $2.44 million for Diversity in Medicine programs, sponsored by the Associated Medical Schools of New York. The funding was included in New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recently adopted state budget.

As part of my role as director of Multicultural, Disability and Veterans Affairs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, I work to help bring in and retain students who are traditionally underrepresented in medicine (URIM) — those who identify as single or multi-ethnic/racial: American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. Diversifying the physician workforce has long been a goal at Upstate. When I was recruited in 2006 to work in the capacity of advancing diversity in medicine, I quickly learned the myriad reasons there are so few doctors of color in our state and across the country are systemic.

This funding is not simply important to create a more representative crop of physicians that reflects and look like our diverse population, but it’s important for health reasons.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the infant mortality rate for Black babies is a staggering 10.8% per 1,000 live births compared to 4.6% for white babies. Research has shown the mortality rate for Black babies decreases dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth. Generally speaking, studies show that patients have better health outcomes when they are treated by doctors who come from similar racial and ethnic backgrounds.

But in New York state there are too few Black doctors to care for Black patients. About 31% of New Yorkers are Black or Hispanic, yet only 12.1% of the state’s physician workforce is. In order to provide the best healthcare to all New Yorkers, New York must diversify its physician workforce. That task requires first taking a serious look at why there are so few doctors of color and righting the historical wrongs that have led us here.

The face of medicine has long been that of a white male, but that isn’t because others don’t aspire to become doctors. Historically people of color have been excluded or discouraged from careers in medicine. These students face significant barriers in pursuing their dreams to become doctors. Many are first-generation, low-income students facing myriad financial, academic and social barriers to entering and completing college, unequal access to medical school, and the absence of mentors also play a significant role.

In order to increase diversity among the physician workforce, we must address these systemic barriers and support aspiring doctors from underrepresented backgrounds. Pipeline programs are valuable tools in this mission. Students who matriculate into the state funded Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) Master’s in Medical Technology Medical Scholars Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University are guaranteed acceptance to the College of Medicine as long as they have a minimum 3.25 cumulative GPA in the program and a 500 MCAT score. AMSNY scholarships and other post-baccalaureate programs at the State University of New York at Buffalo, New York Medical College and SUNY Stony Brook, as well as the recently launched SUNY Pre-Medical Scholars Pipeline Program, are all equalizers. These programs are put in place to level the playing field for students who may not be quite ready for medical school, whether they don’t have the grade point average or financial resources. They reassure the gatekeepers that a student is ready and has the potential to succeed in medical school.

However, the work does not end once a student enters medical school. Students from underrepresented backgrounds need continued support and mentorship to succeed. AMSNY’s programs buoy students throughout their medical journey so that they don’t fall behind. I often tell my students I’m not done with them until they’re a doctor with a job. Even while they’re in their residency program I am checking on them.

AMSNY recently released its Medical School Enrollment Report for 2020-2021 which found that first-year students who are defined as underrepresented in medicine increased by almost two points, reaching 21.1 percent. This is the first time since these statistics have been tracked that the percentage has exceeded 20 percent. Here at Upstate, we’re proud to say that enrollment of first year URIM students is at about 25 percent.

This would suggest that pipeline programs and scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds work!

We, at Upstate, applaud this historic funding increase. The move signals the state’s commitment to addressing longstanding barriers to a diverse physician workforce and its effects will reverberate throughout New York. In partnership with AMSNY, SUNY Upstate Medical University will be able to help create more opportunities for underrepresented people in our communities to become doctors and address health disparities in Central New York.

https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/2022/05/boosting-diversity-in-medicine-also-improves-health-outcomes-guest-opinion-by-nakeia-chambers.html

 

Crain’s New York: Stem cell research hits inflection point a year after New York halts funding

The state’s decision last year to halt funding for stem cell research has forced local scientists to hit pause on work that could spur new treatments for cardiovascular disease, sickle cell anemia and much more. As state lawmakers negotiate the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, researchers are calling for them to reinstate the program.

Lawmakers canceled the $600 million New York State Stem Cell Science program in the spring of 2021 as part of the state budget. Now the researchers who had relied for years on NYSTEM funding have exhausted the money, and their work has ground to a halt just as their promising new therapies become ready for clinical trials.

“We have the ability to, with some new funding, get these clinical trials up off the ground that have stalled,” said Jonathan Teyan, the chief operating officer of the Associated Medical Schools of New York, a Midtown-based consortium. “We are at an inflection point.”

Stem cells have the power to develop into almost any kind of cell in the body, which makes them a powerful tool for scientists to better understand how health issues emerge and how to treat them.

Weill Cornell Medicine researcher Todd Evans was part of a NYSTEM-funded collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering that was investigating a potential cure for sickle cell anemia using stem cells.

Evans said the funding enabled them to conduct enough basic science research to advance the new therapy into clinical trials, but cancellation of the NYSTEM program forced them to put the work on hold while they search for new funding sources.

Another of his projects was investigating the use of stem cells to repair heart damage in cardiovascular disease.

“Clinical trials are really expensive,” Evans said. “Certainly we won’t give up, but it’s really a shame.”

Since its inception in 2007, the NYSTEM program has awarded about $400 million to 372 projects spanning 37 New York institutions, according to its website. The awards generated $481 million in additional support from other funding sources and supported more than 750 jobs statewide.

Asked about the rationale for the cancelation, Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, told Crain’s last year that the state expected stem cell research would continue within academic and private research communities “rather than the Department of Health, which is focused on its core mission of delivering direct services and achieving positive health outcomes for all New Yorkers.”

NYSTEM-funded researchers are hunting for funding opportunities with the National Institutes of Health, pharmaceutical companies and private philanthropy, but they said the process could take months—or even years. In the meantime, they risk losing talented scientists who were working on the projects they already started.

Dr. Erika Bach, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at New York University‘s Grossman School of Medicine, said she had to fire two of her lab’s five researchers once her NYSTEM funding ran out.

Bach’s lab had been examining how stem cells behave when they are healthy and what causes them to malfunction. She said the findings could inform future innovations to combat aging or to regenerate organs using a patient’s own cells.

Bach is pursuing federal grant opportunities to continue the work, but she said the National Institutes of Health could take six to 18 months just to give her a definitive rejection. That puts researchers like herself at a disadvantage with researchers in states such as California that have robust funding programs for stem cell research.

The Associated Medical Schools of New York, which represents the state’s 17 public and private medical schools, is pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers to restore state funding for stem cell research in the fiscal 2023 budget, at a cost of $44.8 million per year.

Otherwise, Weill Cornell’s Evans said, the state risks a “brain drain” to California and other states that fund this research, which will then reap the economic benefits of the new jobs and companies that result. Evans said he has already lost one of his top junior faculty members to a California university since the NYSTEM funding dried up.

“Those people have to move on, so you lose the talent and the staff to drive the program,” he said. “That’s where you lose the momentum.” 

https://www.crainsnewyork.com/health-care/stem-cell-research-hits-inflection-point-year-after-new-york-halts-funding

Testimony of Jo Wiederhorn, President & CEO of AMSNY at a Joint Budget Hearing on February 8, 2022

Good afternoon Chairwomen Kruger and Weinstein, Chairmen Rivera and Gottfried and other distinguished members of the State Legislature.  Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the Executive proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-2023.

My name is Jo Wiederhorn, President & CEO of the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), a consortium of the seventeen public and private medical schools in New York State. AMSNY works in partnership with its members to promote high quality and cost-efficient health care by assuring that New York State’s medical schools provide outstanding medical education, patient care and biomedical research.

The Need for a More Diverse Physician Workforce

For many years I have come before the Legislature asking for either a restoration of funds or for more funds for our Diversity in Medicine Programs.  Each year this body has supported these programs to the best of your ability.  I am truly grateful.  In fact, for the first time, the aggregate number of underrepresented students in New York State’s 17 medical schools’ entering classes has reached over 21%, and the total percentage of underrepresented students in all years is over 18%.  Whereas we still have a long way to go, the upward trend that these figures represent can be correlated with your support.  

Increasing the diversity of the physician workforce is one means to tackle the acute health disparities that are seen throughout the State.  There have been many studies that have shown that a diverse workforce will improve the nation’s health disparities and as such, the nation’s health (Jackson, 2014).  Other studies demonstrate that physicians from racial or ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in medicine are more likely to practice primary care and practice in underserved areas while treating a larger number of minority patients.  Furthermore, when given a choice, racial and ethnic minority patients are more likely to select physicians who share their racial/ethnic background and in doing so, report receiving higher quality care (Kington, 2001).

AMSNY strongly believes in the importance of a multi-faceted 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. AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine programs, in large part funded through the NYS Department of Health, was developed with these two visions in mind.

AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Program

While underrepresented in medicine populations (URIM) make up 36% of the New York State population, they account for approximately 21% of the state’s medical students and approximately 12% of New York State’s practicing physicians. 

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.

Diversity in Medicine Program 

The New York State Senate and Assembly have been very supportive of these programs.  When necessary, the Legislature decoupled the Executive’s proposed “workforce pools” and provided a line item allocation for the programs.  When possible, the Legislature restored the cuts that have been in the Executive Budget. In 2018 the Legislature took the additional step of providing scholarship funds for 10 students who have successfully completed one of AMSNY’s other programs. 

Core Diversity Programs

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; and three Master’s degree post baccalaureate programs at SUNY Upstate, the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University and New York Medical College. These programs were the first of their kind to provide guaranteed admission to medical school.  Students must apply to a New York State medical school and be interviewed by the schools’ admissions’ committees.  If the admissions’ committees believe 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.  94% of the students in our Master’s degree post baccalaureate programs enter medical school. 

The other core programs are offered along the educational continuum: support of an academic learning center at CUNY College of Medicine (CUNY) – a seven-year BS/MD program that students enter directly from high school – and a program at the City College of New York that links junior and senior baccalaureate students with NIH-funded researchers to prepare them for careers in medical school or the basic sciences.  

Attached to this testimony are charts and graphs that demonstrate the success of our programs; as well as a synopsis of the demographics of medical school students in New York State. 

State Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Funding

This year, unlike any year since 2007, the Executive budget included an increase in funds for AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Programs.  The Executive budget that has been proposed for SFY 2022-2023 provides an additional $1.2 million over SFY 2021-2022 funding.  We are pleased the Executive understands the importance of these programs and has seen to increase their budget.  We ask that the Legislature accept this increase, which will allow AMSNY to provide much needed investments to the programs and expand the capacity and breadth of the portfolio. 

For FY 2022-2023, we are requesting the Legislature to support the increased funding allocation proposed in the Executive Budget of $2.444 million dollars and to ensure it is accepted into the enacted budget.

DOH Scholarship in Medicine Program

Paying for medical school is a daunting challenge.  A majority of medical school graduates complete their education with the assistance of student loan financing.  The median level of principal debt for students graduating in 2020 was $200,000 (based on public and private MD-granting schools, including undergraduate debt).  If one were to add in accrued interest, the median student debt level is over $230,000.  

In SFY 2017-2018, AMSNY received a $500,000 investment from the State to start a Diversity in Medicine scholarship program to help address the gap in physician diversity. The scholarship—indexed to the average cost of SUNY medical school tuition— helps students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine by eliminating the financial barrier to medical school enrollment.  In 2021-2022, the legislature increased the funding to $550,000.

The increase in funding has allowed AMSNY to award 11 scholarships annually to students who have completed one of the Diversity in Medicine post-baccalaureate programs. In return, the scholarship awardees commit to working for at least two years in an underserved area in New York. The program, which is patterned after the National Health Service Corp, is very competitive.  There are always more students applying for the positions than number of slots.  For the SFY 2020-2021 over 25 students applied for 10 positions.  Scholarship students are entering all fields of medicine:  Primary Care, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Urology to name a few.  These students are highly committed to practicing in underserved areas of New York State – areas where all of these specialties are needed.

The Diversity in Medicine Scholarship Program is a legislative add-on.  As such, we ask that you continue to fund this important program.  It is very well received by the students and will continue to provide physicians within the specialties and localities where they are most needed. 

We urge the legislature to provide at least $550,000 to maintain our current number of scholarship students.

New York State Stem Cell Program (NYSTEM)

AMSNY is deeply concerned about the language in the 2021-2022 budget which affirmatively eliminated the New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM) program and its future funding. NYSTEM was established to position New York State as a global leader in stem cell research by driving new therapies for New Yorkers and spurring growth in our life sciences sector. It has funded significant and groundbreaking discoveries throughout New York State. 

Since the start of the program NYSTEM has issued 25 Requests for Applications and made more than 400 awards totaling approximately $400 million in stem cell research, training, infrastructure and education at 39 New York State institutions.  Research that began with NYSTEM has resulted in approximately $170 million in funding from other governmental and philanthropic sources. The program also has advanced the state’s objective of bringing more venture-capital funding to life sciences companies. NYSTEM-funded research has spawned multiple startups, including BlueRock Therapeutics, which formed in 2016 to expand on stem cell research by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pharmaceutical company Bayer bought the company for $600 million in 2019, in a deal that valued BlueRock at about $1 billion. 

NYSTEM-funded researchers have developed promising new clinical therapies for diseases that disproportionately impact communities of color and the economically disadvantaged in New York.  Many of the researchers have just reached the stage where their funding is coming into fruition.  Clinical trials are now starting to determine appropriate therapeutics in diseases such as sickle cell, multiple sciolous, adult macular degeneration, Parkinson’s’ disease and others. 

Unfortunately, now, without funding, entire lines of research are threatened and projects with years of research behind them have no future. 

NYSDOH issued a new Request for Applications in June 2020, to which more than 100 scientists throughout the state responded and were subsequently informed that their applications would not be reviewed, and that funding would not be available.  These applications required hundreds of hours of preparation by the researchers. To have those applications simply discarded is unconscionable and, most importantly, prevents promising research seeking progress on such diseases as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, glioblastoma and colorectal cancer.

NYSTEM is also a program that creates jobs, boosts the life sciences sector and makes a substantial contribution to the medical research workforce in New York State. It is a vital source of funding for laboratories in New York. NYSTEM funding has helped leverage funding from other sources, including the National Institutes of Health and venture capital funding, in ways that no other program has been able to.

Research funded by the NYSTEM program has led to many significant breakthroughs since the program was launched. Though NYSDOH has not funded NYSTEM at levels consistent with annual budget appropriations, the accomplishments are nonetheless substantial and the stem cell research community remains poised to rapidly expand its work with a renewed commitment to the program. The health and economic impacts of New York State’s investment in stem cell research are clear and progress in these areas will be exponentially important as the State emerges from the most devastating public health emergency in a century. 

Now is a particularly inopportune time to terminate NYSTEM funding.  California voters recently approved $5.5 billion in new state funding for stem cell research.  Texas, Florida and Massachusetts have all made investments in stem cell science.  Funding opportunities in these states, while there is none in New York, creates a climate in which it will be very difficult to recruit and retain scientific talent.

In conclusion, we ask you and your colleagues to consider the following questions related to NYSTEM as you proceed with forming a budget for the upcoming fiscal year: 

  • Should New York State terminate its flagship extramural medical research program, the findings from which are on the cusp of developing new treatments and therapeutics? 
  • Should New York State stop the progress that stem cell research has made towards developing clinical therapies for diseases that impact the most economically disadvantaged of our population? 
  • Should New York State cut off a proven source of scientific innovation that is bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research and private venture capital life sciences investment to New York State?
  • Should New York State seek to end a program that trains the scientific workforce and has generated hundreds of jobs at a time when we begin to pursue the economic and public health recovery from the pandemic?

We believe the answer to these questions is emphatically “no.” 

Again, we applaud the Legislature and the Governor for having invested in this initiative by consistently appropriating $44.8 million annually for this program since 2007. 

We urge the legislature to include Article 7 language that will reinstate the NYSTEM Program and provide full funding $44.8 million in FY 2022-2023.  In addition, we urge the State to maintain its commitment to fully funding the remainder of the $600 million program. 

Closing 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for your continued support of medical education.  I welcome any questions you may have.

Respectively Submitted:

Jo Wiederhorn

——————————————————————————————————-

The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is the consortium of the seventeen public and private medical schools in the state. The organization’s mission is to promote high quality and cost-efficient health care by ensuring that the NYS medical schools can provide outstanding medical education, care and research.

AMSNY Member Institutions

  • Albany Medical College
  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University 
  • CUNY School of Medicine
  • Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center
  • Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • New York Medical College
  • New York University Grossman School of Medicine
  • New York University Long Island School of Medicine
  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University
  • Stony Brook University School of Medicine
  • Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Weill Cornell Medicine
  • Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell

——

“Underrepresented in medicine means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.” AAMC’s Executive Council, June 2003

 

AMSNY Calls on Legislature to Restore New York Stem Cell Science Program (NYSTEM)

 -On behalf of the 17 medical schools across New York State, the organization calls for New York’s flagship research program to be reestablished – 

-The previous administration’s decision to eliminate funding for stem cell research has negative implications for both economic development and scientific advancement – 

(New York, NY) – The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is calling on the state legislature to reinstate the New York Stem Cell Science program (NYSTEM), restoring funding to its prior level of $44.8 million, and eliminating legislative language that prevents any new grants from being awarded.

Last year, Governor Cuomo made the unfortunate decision to eliminate NYSTEM, despite the program being New York’s flagship investment in biomedical research and the program’s contributions to a wide range of research, including advances that have helped in the fight against COVID-19.

“On behalf of the state’s 17 medical schools, we are calling on the legislature to reestablish the New York State Stem Cell Science program, which has made a significant impact both in terms of economic activity and scientific advancements since its launch in 2007,” said Jo Wiederhorn, President and CEO of AMSNY. “Ending the program now—when the medical potential of stem cells is just beginning to be realized, and other states have doubled down on their investments—is incredibly short sighted.”

NYSTEM funding has supported innovative research, the discovery of potential new treatments that are in clinical trials, the launch of startup companies, and training grants to develop the next generation of scientists. Research that began with NYSTEM has resulted in approximately $170 million in funding from other governmental and philanthropic sources. The program also has advanced the state’s objective of bringing more venture-capital funding to life sciences companies, with nearly $300 million in VC money supporting businesses that NYSTEM scientists founded.

In contrast, the elimination of NYSTEM resulted in layoffs and the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and venture capital investments. Additionally, research progress was halted, clinical trials shuttered, and scientists may relocate their labs—taking with them their team members and their other grants—to states that support research, like California, which recently invested an additional $5.5 billion in its Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  

Not only does ending NYSTEM have economic implications, it will delay and in some cases entirely derail the scientific progress research teams have made so far. And the advances made thanks to NYSTEM have been significant: NYU Langone Health is making progress in treating leukemia; Memorial Sloan Kettering is teaming with Weill Cornell Medicine and others to help those with advanced Parkinson’s disease; and the Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer is developing a clinical therapy for age-related macular degeneration, a blinding, degenerative eye disorder that affects 1 in 5 people over age 75.

Also, at a time when employers, universities and local governments across New York State are making a commitment to equity and justice, we are proud that research funded by NYSTEM is creating promising new clinical therapies for diseases that disproportionately affect communities of color. For example, researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine, assisted by this state program, have developed a potential treatment for sickle cell disease. This involves transplanting genetically corrected stem cells into patients with sickle cell disease, which primarily affects Black and Hispanic Americans.

By eliminating NYSTEM, the state loses all the momentum the program has fostered. Ten Nobel Laureates based in New York wrote to the Governor and state leaders last year, that “this program has been a tremendous scientific and economic development success and it would be a real loss to the State if the program was eliminated.” None of these award-winning scientists receive NYSTEM funding, but all believe that “[this] research holds tremendous promise for better understanding human biology and developing prevention strategies, treatments, and perhaps even cures for many debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, cancer and cardiovascular disorders including stroke and sudden death.”


AMSNY urges the state to recommit to its life sciences sector and reestablish NYSTEM, before all gains from the program are lost.

About AMSNY

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: www.amsny.org

Crain’s New York: Gov. Hochul should re-establish state’s defunded stem cell science program

November 29, 2021

OP-ED

Gov. Hochul should re-establish state’s defunded stem cell science program

BY JO WIEDERHORN

The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the critical role science and scientists play in solving health threats. Across New York, our scientists quickly redirected existing lines of research to understand SARS-CoV-2, and they partnered with the private sector to launch vaccine trials.

Against that backdrop, it’s troubling that in the spring, the state decided to eliminate its flagship biomedical research program: the New York State Stem Cell Science program. NYSTEM has been an annual investment by the state since 2007, but it was defunded, and all future stem cell research projects were canceled. Moreover, the state withheld funds from researchers who had paused their work early in the pandemic—either because labs were mandated to do so or because they had pivoted to Covid-related work.

I urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to reverse course and re-establish this critical research program.

The power of science

NYSTEM funding has supported innovative research, the discovery of potential new treatments that are in clinical trials, the launch of startup companies and training grants to develop the next generation of scientists.

Research that began with NYSTEM has resulted in approximately $170 million in funding from other governmental and philanthropic sources. The program also has advanced the state’s objective of bringing more venture-capital funding to life sciences companies, with nearly $300 million in VC money supporting businesses that NYSTEM scientists founded.

NYSTEM funding has led to discoveries of potential treatments for critical diseases, including a clinical trial currently underway with leukemia patients at NYU Langone Health and a planned clinical trial for people with advanced Parkinson’s disease to be launched by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with BlueRock Therapeutics and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Other areas of study include diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, cancer and cardiovascular disorders. Without funding, though, projects with years of research behind them have no future in New York.

Researchers pivoted much of their work to focus on treating and understanding Covid-19, like those at Weill Cornell Medicine who used their NYSTEM-funded lab to test about 1,200 drugs for their efficacy in blocking Covid-19 infection.

By eliminating NYSTEM, the state loses all the momentum the program has fostered. Worse yet, researchers—especially young ones—will see the move as a sign that they cannot count on New York to maintain its commitment to support stem cell research or other areas of science, while other states invest in it. (California recently approved an additional $5.5 billion for stem cell research.) Our scientists will look elsewhere to conduct their work, taking with them their intellectual firepower, grant funding and jobs.

If New York is to be a hub for life sciences, and benefit from the medical advances and economic development the sector provides, the state must invest in research.

The power of science has never been clearer. Is New York going to abandon its commitments to its largest research program?

The state must reconsider the impacts and revive NYSTEM as soon as possible.

Jo Wiederhorn is president and CEO of the Associated Medical Schools of New York.

https://www.crainsnewyork.com/op-ed/new-york-stem-cell-science-program-must-be-reestablished (behind paywall)

 

Newsday: Address health disparities with doctor diversity

OPINION/LETTERS

Address health disparities with doctor diversity

The recent research from the Commonwealth Fund shows we must address the dramatic health care disparities faced by Black and Latino New Yorkers [“Disparities in health care,” News, Nov. 18]. One tool we have is increasing diversity among our doctors, as outcomes are improved when patients receive care from doctors from similar racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The article cited disparities among infant mortality rates, and research has shown the mortality rate for Black babies is cut dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth. But there are too few Black doctors to treat Black patients. Here in New York State, 34% of our population is Black or Hispanic, yet only 13% of our practicing doctors represent those communities.

To increase diversity among doctors, we must address the systemic obstacles to medical school, including financial, academic, and social barriers. Pipeline programs and scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds are successful in supporting aspiring doctors to become physicians, and should be expanded to meet our state’s needs.

Jo Wiederhorn, Norwalk, Conn.  

The writer is president and CEO of Associated Medical Schools of New York.

https://www.newsday.com/opinion/letters/newsday-opinion-reader-letters-1.50432761 

Becker’s Hospital Review: 1st year New York med students from underrepresented backgrounds tops 20%, report says

Cailey Gleeson (Twitter)

The number of New York-based first year medical students from underrepresented backgrounds increased to 21.1 percent, the first time the percentage has surpassed 20 percent, according to an annual report from Associated Medical Schools of New York.

The data accounted for the 11,193 students enrolled in New York-based medical schools during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Of the students from underrepresented backgrounds, 8 percent identified as Black/African American, 7.5 percent identified as Hispanic/Latino, and 7.3 percent identified as 2 or more ethnicities/races. Students who identified as Black/African American, including those who identify as multi ethnic/racial, where one of the races is Black/African American, account for 9.7 percent.

“Twenty percent is worth celebrating, as long as we acknowledge that we have a way to go,” Jo Wiederhorn, president and chief executive officer of AMSNY, said in a press release. “Diversity in medicine is important because we know patients have better health outcomes when they see doctors from their own backgrounds.” 

Read the full report here.

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/1st-year-new-york-med-students-from-underrepresented-backgrounds-tops-20-report-says.html 

BronxNet: BronxTalk with AMSNY’s President and CEO Jo Wiederhorn

November 1, 2021

This week’s BronxTalk features a discussion on Bronx health, COVID infections, vaccination rates, and the importance of training doctors of color to increase patient comfort with expert medical advice. The guests are Dr. Olusimbo Ige, MD, PH, Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Health Equity Capacity Building NYC DOHMH; Cyrille Njikeng, Managing Director, Bronx Rising Initiative; Jo Wiederhorn, President and CEO, Associate Medical Schools of New York. Hosted by Gary Axelbank.

Watch the video on here on YouTube

Read more about the interview here.

Crain’s New York: State med schools report record-high diversity

 
October 29, 2021 11:31 AM
 
 
Medical school
Unsplash
 

More than 21% of first-year students last year at medical schools in the state were from diverse backgrounds, according to a new report by the Associated Medical Schools of New York.

The consortium, a nonprofit that represents the state’s 17 public and private medical schools, said it was the first time the rate exceeded 20% since it has been tracked.

The statistic captures the share of medical students who come from groups underrepresented in medicine, meaning they identify as American Indian or Alaskan native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or a combination.

“Twenty percent is worth celebrating, as long as we acknowledge that we have a way to go,” said Jo Wiederhorn, the consortium’s president and CEO. “Diversity in medicine is important because we know patients have better health outcomes when they see doctors from their own background.”

More than 11,000 students were enrolled at a medical school in the state during the 2020–2021 year, including about 2,600 first-year students. Of those, 8% identify as Black or African American, 7.5% identify as Hispanic or Latino, and 7.3% identify as two or more ethnicities or races, the enrollment report found.

The consortium said many aspiring physicians from marginalized communities face significant hurdles including the thousands of dollars it takes to apply to medical school, a lack of exposure to faculty mentors from similar backgrounds, and imposter syndrome.

https://www.crainsnewyork.com/health-care/new-york-medical-schools-see-record-high-diversity

Report: For First Time, Over 20% of New Medical School Students in New York Come From Backgrounds Underrepresented in Medicine

Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino Students, Including those who Identify as Multi-ethnic/racial, Account for 9.7% and 10.5% of First Year Students

(New York, NY) – The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), a nonprofit organization that represents the 17 medical schools in New York State, has released its Medical School Enrollment Report for 2020-2021 and the number of first year students who are defined as underrepresented in medicine (URIM) increased by almost two points, reaching 21.1 percent. This is the first time since these statistics have been tracked that the percentage has exceeded 20 percent. 

“Twenty percent is worth celebrating, as long as we acknowledge that we have a way to go,” says President and CEO of AMSNY, Jo Wiederhorn. “Diversity in medicine is important because we know patients have better health outcomes when they see doctors from their own backgrounds.” 

Underrepresented in medicine groups make up approximately 31.1% of New York’s population but only 12.1% of the state’s physician workforce. URIM is defined as students who identify as any of these four ethnic/racial categories, either as single or multi-ethnic/racial: American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

According to the AMSNY report, 11,193 students were enrolled in New York State-based medical schools in the 2020-2021 school year. First year students numbered 2,589, of which 21.1 percent identified as URIM. Of those students, 8% identify as Black/ African American, 7.5% identify as Hispanic/Latino represent, and 7.3% identify as 2 or more ethnicities/races. Students who identify as Black/African American, including those who identify as multi ethnic/racial, where one of the races is Black/African American, account for 9.7%. Students who identify as Hispanic/Latino, including those who identify as multi ethnic/racial, where one of the ethnicities is Hispanic/Latino, account for 10.5%.

URIM students face significant barriers in pursuing their dreams to become doctors. Many are first-generation low-income students facing myriad financial, academic and social barriers to entering and completing college. 

“Underrepresented students often do not receive proper guidance and advising at their undergraduate institutions when deciding whether to apply to medical school and they face other barriers to entering the medical field.  Many of those barriers are being addressed through programs, but we need more,” says Dr. Gary Butts, chair of the Committee for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and associate dean for Diversity Programs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

According to a report, “Addressing the Challenges to a Diverse Physician Workforce,” published by AMSNY in 2020, the application process to get into medical school is another barrier that stops many URIM students. Medical school applicants are recommended to budget $5,000 to $15,000 for the application process alone. Those who are able to apply and are accepted can expect to graduate with $250,000 or more in student loans. Other reasons cited as barriers to URIM students getting into medical school include lack of exposure to similarly underrepresented faculty mentors and feelings of isolation and impostor syndrome.  

“This lack of representation has implications for medical care. Physicians from underrepresented minority groups are more likely to practice primary care and practice in low-income and underserved areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the dire need to address health disparities. Our programs have over a 30-year track record of doing just that,” said Wiederhorn. “AMSNY Diversity in Medicine programs, funded by the NYS Department of Health, have produced hundreds of doctors who are from underserved communities and who then practice in those same communities.”

Expanding the pipeline of URIM students entering and graduating from medical school is not a simple task and requires a multifaceted approach with significant dedicated resources. Since 1985, AMSNY has supported programs that expand the pool of students choosing careers in medicine and healthcare. 

In 1991, AMSNY launched the highly-successful post-baccalaureate program, which ensures medical school acceptance upon program completion.  The program is funded by New York State. Over 600 post-bacc participants in New York have become doctors. 

In 2017 AMSNY launched a scholarship program funded by the State Legislature. The scholarship covered the cost of tuition for 10 students. This past year, funding from the Cabrini Foundation allowed AMSNY to expand the scholarship program by 10 students. 

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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: www.amsny.org