AMSNY Funds $1.3 Million in NY Medical School Scholarships to Address Lack of Diversity in Medicine

-Thirty Students from Underrepresented Backgrounds Awarded Scholarships, Commit to Working in Underserved Areas –

The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is proud to announce $1.3M in medical school scholarships and to introduce the 30 underrepresented in medicine recipients of the 2021-2022 AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Scholarship. Designed to increase the diversity of the New York State physician workforce, the scholarship is available to medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine, including Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. The scholarships address one of the greatest barriers to medical school participation among students from underrepresented backgrounds, the high cost of tuition, and are part of a continuum of programs AMSNY runs and funds to improve diversity in medicine.

The scholarship, $42,000 per year, is awarded for a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years. In return, students commit to working in an underserved area in New York State for a for a similar time period, based on the number of years they receive the scholarship. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must have completed one of AMSNY five post-baccalaureate programs, which create opportunities for students who have experienced barriers to a medical education including financial, academic and social barriers. The Post Bac programs are highly successful, with 94 percent of students going on to medical schools in New York.

Diversifying the physician workforce is an important part of the effort to reduce health disparities, which existed before and were highlighted by the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and have persisted since. The AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Scholarship was launched in 2017 with funding from the New York State Department of Health, thanks to support from the New York State Legislature and the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. This year, 30 scholarships were awarded:  15 due to funding from the Department of Health  and 15 due to support from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.

AMSNY has overseen programs to increase the racial and ethnic diversity at medical schools for nearly 40 years.  Due in part to AMSNY’s efforts, this year more than 20 percent of medical students attending the 17 medical schools based in New York overall were from underrepresented backgrounds. Underrepresented minorities (Blacks/African Americans & Hispanics/Latinos) make up approximately 31.1% of New York’s population but only 12.1% of the state’s physician workforce. Last year for the first time, more than 20 percent of first year medical students identified as belonging to one of these groups.  

“AMSNY congratulates our newest Diversity in Medicine Scholarship recipients, who have all demonstrated a passion for medicine and improving the health of their communities,” said Jo Wiederhorn, CEO of AMSNY.  “While there is still much work to be done, we are hopeful that these medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine will go on to help diversify New York’s physician workforce and reduce health disparities.”



  • DEASHIA MCALPINE, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’23 
  • SAMANTHA WILLIAMS, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’23


  • DOMINIQUE ALEXIS, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’25
  • JESSE KWAME ASIEDU, State University of New York, Downstate Health Sciences University,
    MD, ’25
  • COLLEEN BECKFORD, State University of New York, Downstate Health Sciences University, MD, ’23
  • HILARY BRIGHT, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, MD, ’23 
  • DEVANTE BRYANT-NURSE, Albany Medical College, MD, ’25
  • VANESSA CHICAS, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’25
  • DANYA CONTRERAS, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’25
  • JOSE DELIZ, State University of New York, Downstate Health Sciences University, MD, ’25
  • JERLIN GARO, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD, ’25
  • ROMARIO GIBSON, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’24
  • KATHERINE GUZMAN, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’25
  • NNEKA ONWUMERE, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, MD, ’24
  • LUNA PAREDES, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD, ’25
  • ROBERT SIMMONS, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, MD, ’24
  • SAVANNAH STEWART, Albany Medical College, MD, ’25
  • JUAN PABLO VASQUEZ, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD, ’23


  • MALENA ALLBRIGHT, Albany Medical College, MD, ‘26
  • BRADLEY AMAZAN, State University of New York, Downstate Health Sciences University, MD, ’24
  • ANTONIO BOTTOS, University of Rochester School of Dentistry and Medicine, MD, 26’
  • BIANCA AUDREY DUAH, University of Rochester School of Dentistry and Medicine, MD, 24’
  • ISAAC FAITH, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MD, ’26
  • JULIET MANU, New York Medical College, MD, ‘26
  • JOSUE MERIDA, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, MD, ’26
  • SYDNEY PIGOTT, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the University at Buffalo, SUNY, MD, ‘25
  • ALEXIS RIVERA, State University of New York, Downstate Health Sciences University,
    MD, ‘24
  • SADE TAYLOR, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, MD, ’26
  • RICARDO TOCHIMANI, New York Medical College, MD, ‘26
  • OUMOU TOURÉ, University of Rochester School of Dentistry and Medicine, MD, 26’

PIX 11: Scholarship Program Aims to Diversify the Physician Workforce

There is a program underway aimed at providing scholarships to those who aspire to enter the medical industry. The initiative is geared toward helping students from backgrounds who are underrepresented in medicine.

Bradley Amazan always knew he wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but there was one thing holding him back.

“It’s an imposter syndrome. You kind of tend to think that you’re not adequate enough to do whatever it is you want to do,” he said.

He was encouraged by physicians to give it a shot. The 27-year-old first-generation American, born to Haitian immigrants, said he had nothing to lose. He took the Medical College Admissions Test, which led him to SUNY Downstate where he received an opportunity of a lifetime. Amazan was awarded the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) diversity in medicine scholarship.

According to AMSNY, more than 30% of the state’s population is Black or Hispanic, with only 12% of physicians represent those demographics. Their goal is to diversify the physician workforce by creating a pipeline for those with the passion to pursue a career in medicine but can’t afford it.

AMSNY provides a $42,000 scholarship to 30 students like Amazan each year. Those accepted into the post-baccalaureate program receive $17,500 stipend, but there are caveats. If students are accepted to a medical school, they won’t be able to benefit from the program. Also, once accepted into the baccalaureate program, students are not allowed to work so they can concentrate on their studies.

Here’s how it works. In order to qualify, students are referred by the medical school they’ve applied to. If they successfully complete the one-year program, they automatically get admitted to that same medical school.

Once the student is enrolled into the post-baccalaureate program, those courses that are taken won’t necessarily carry over into medical school. However, it still gives them a leg up and they don’t have to reapply to medical school.

Since beginning its post-baccalaureate program in 1991, there are over 700 practicing physicians who have gone through the program. This year they’ve expanded to include SUNY Downstate making up the five diversity and medicine post-baccalaureate programs in New York State that are administered by AMSNY. In return, students agree to pay it forward.

Watch the interview:

Governor Hochul Announces More Than $2.4 Million to Diversity Physician Workforce



New York State Doubles Investment to Expand Diversity Programs Managed by the Associated Medical Schools of New York and Serving More Than 800 Students       

About 20 percent of All Medical Students in New York Now from the Black and Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, and Native American Demographic    

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the state has doubled its investment – committing more than $2.4 million – in diversity programs managed by the Associated Medical Schools of New York to help bring more traditionally unrepresented students to the physician workforce. Funded in part through the state Department of Health, these programs are designed to encourage students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in medicine – including those who are Black, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, or Native American – to get accepted into and complete medical school in New York.    

“For far too long, communities of color in New York have faced disparities in their access to healthcare and have endured poorer health outcomes, both of which have resulted partially from their under-representation in the medical field,” Governor Hochul said. “By doubling our commitment to programs that champion diversity in medicine, we can ensure that our state’s healthcare workforce is more representative of our state’s population and help right historic wrongs.”   

 While more than 30 percent of the state’s population is Black or Hispanic, only 12 percent of physicians represent those demographics. Research has shown that patients seeing doctors from their own background have better health outcomes, which makes diversifying the state’s physician workforce imperative to improving the overall health of New Yorkers and addressing disparities. 

New York State is now providing more than $2.4 million to diversity in medicine programs, which are designed to close gaps in the medical profession, doubling the funding commitment made last year. This funding is expected to serve more than 800 students through new and existing diversity initiatives, including Bridges to Medicine, AMSNY’s successful post-baccalaureate program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.   

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett discussed the importance of this commitment today during an event at SUNY Downstate, and how these programs are helping to build diversity at medical schools statewide. For the first time, about 20 percent of all medical students in New York are now from traditionally underrepresented populations, including Black and Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander and Native American backgrounds.   

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said, “There are few things more important to our goals of improving health equity than the work of ensuring that the medical profession is as diverse as the New Yorkers they serve. Having a trusted voice and someone who understands the unique facets of your life experience can change a person’s understanding of their own health. This funding makes an investment in the people who make that a reality, and it will help for years to come by improving diversity, equity and inclusion to achieve better health outcomes for those who are traditionally underserved.”    

Launched in 2017, the Bridges to Medicine is a year-long post-baccalaureate line of study designed to increase the representation of students from traditionally underrepresented and low socioeconomic backgrounds seeking admission into medical schools. Accredited as Master of Science in Physiology program in 2020, students participate in co-mingled classes as first-year medical students.   

Of the 57 medical students enrolled in Bridges to Medicine between 2017 and 2021, 88 percent were accepted into medical schools. In addition, six students from the program’s first cohort were matched to SUNY Downstate for their residencies.    

In addition to Bridges to Medicine, the state’s investment is supporting new, innovative initiatives to ensure underrepresented students are prepared for medical school. The funding is supporting a program to encourage Black male athletes interested in entering medicine; MCAT preparation programs; research and physician shadowing opportunities; a web-based program to match students with faculty mentors; and community resources to help medical students with housing, nutritional resource, and other life skills, such as financial literacy.   

The increased funding is also supporting more students at AMSNY’s preexisting programs:    

Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), a consortium of the 17 public and private medical schools in New York State, launched its first diversity pipeline programs in 1985 and has continually provided opportunities for underrepresented students to prepare for and enter medical school. The state Department of Health has provided funding for these programs since 2002 in an effort to help broaden the demographics of people entering the medical profession in New York.       

Associated Medical Schools of New York President and CEO Jo Wiederhorn said, “The state Department of Health’s commitment represents a historic investment in the physician pipeline in New York State and will improve the diversity of the healthcare workforce. Our programs have shown results for over 35 years and now we will be able to really scale the impact. Over 94 percent of students in AMSNY’s four Post Baccalaureate programs, go on to medical school with approximately half going on to primary care specialties, often in underserved areas.”   

State University of New York Downstate President Dr. Wayne J. Riley said, “We are encouraged by the impact the Bridges to Medicine program has had on our students’ abilities to transition into their first year of medical school. In a community where the diversity is so great, in addition to providing quality healthcare, we are proud that our patients recognize and appreciate the reflection of their diverse and unique backgrounds. Our Bridges to Medicine Master’s program is a benefit to the students and an even greater benefit to the community.”       

State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said, “Diversity and representation in medicine is critical to addressing persistent racial health disparities. It is vital that our state continues to invest in programs like Bridges to Medicine that will not only provide opportunities for medical students of color but improve the health of our communities through increased access to quality, culturally competent care. Our communities deserve to have physicians they trust who understand their needs. I applaud Governor Kathy Hochul, Commissioner Mary Bassett, and the New York State Department of Health for their work to increase diversity in the medical field, create pathways to careers in medicine for communities of color, and inspire the next generation of healthcare leaders.”    

Assemblymember Brian Cunningham said, “I express my gratitude to the New York State Department of Health and AMSNY for their visionary leadership and support for programs increasing diversity in medicine,” “We are fortunate to have many talented medical students and practitioners right at home in District 43, here at SUNY Downstate. Through this funding, not only are we enhancing medical services available in underserved areas like Brooklyn, but also providing incomparable opportunities to BIPOC students. These programs enable a diverse pool of medical students to pursue opportunities they might not otherwise have access to, so on behalf of myself and my constituents, I thank you.”    

Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter said, “I am immensely proud to have been the primary advocate in the Assembly for the funding of the Diversity in Medicine program for multiple state budgets. Increasing the diversity of our doctors and nurses leads to better health outcomes as we enable new practitioners in the medical field who are directly invested in their communities. I look forward to the expansion of these programs and the many benefits it will have for our medical students as well as their future patients.”   



Full Circle: Pipeline Program Helps Bronx Teacher Become a Doctor in the Borough that Raised Him

Dr. Eugene Palatulan often describes his life as a series of full circle moments. An Assistant Professor of Sports Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Montefiore Medical Center (MMC)/Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Einstein), Dr. Palatulan finds himself serving the community where he grew up…but this isn’t the first time.

Before coming to Montefiore, Dr. Palatulan was known by his Bronx high school students as Mr. or even Coach Palatulan. The Filipino immigrant moved to the Bronx with his family at age 13 in 1996 and attended John F. Kennedy High School. He eventually became a Biology teacher at his former high school because he wanted to “give back.” Later he taught and coached the Girls’ Varsity Basketball team at the High School of American Studies, also in the Bronx. 

While a teacher he spent summers conducting Malaria research at Columbia University’s summer research program (SRP) for teachers.  Through this program he  was selected to be part SRP’s teacher exchange program.  This offered him the opportunity  to provide professional development to educators in Malaysia and Singapore.

But Dr. Palatulan always had a burning desire to become a doctor.  Despite having what he has called an excellent liberal arts education from Swarthmore College and good grades at an Ivy League graduate school, Dr. Palatulan said his MCAT scores weren’t competitive and he didn’t quite feel ready for medical school. Enter the Associated Medical Schools of New York.

When Dr. Palatulan didn’t get accepted to his first-choice medical school – Albert Einstein College of Medicine – which is walking distance from where he lives with his wife and kids, he was devastated. But a letter soon arrived in the mail offering him conditional acceptance into Einstein if he completed AMSNY’s Post-baccalaureate program at the University of Buffalo.  Dr. Palatulan credits the program’s rigorous curriculum with helping him develop the confidence to get through medical school.

After completing his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York Presbyterian Hospital in 2021 and a Sports Medicine fellowship at the University of  Pennsylvania in 2022, Dr. Palatulan was offered a job at MMC/Einstein where he is now caring for Bronx residents of all ages and walks of life, from youth to seniors and athletes of all levels. Dr. Palatulan is also helping oversee a Sports Medicine Fellowship program at MMC/Einstein. In yet another complete full circle moment, he plans to connect his medical school and current employer with student athletes from his former high school. 

“To be an academic in a teaching institution, this is the perfect job to start my career,” said Dr. Palatulan.

WNBC’s TODAY in New York Looks at Diversity in Medicine

WNBC’s TODAY in New York takes a look at the lack of diversity among doctors and the impact that has on New Yorkers seeking health care. AMSNY’s “Aim High” pipeline program works to increase diversity in medicine and introduce students from underrepresented backgrounds to the medical field.

Click on the image to watch the video:

AMSNY Mourns Loss of Visionary Susan Solomon Who Advanced Stem Cell Research and Medical Breakthroughs, Improving Patient Health Across the Globe

Jo Wiederhorn, President of the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) issued the following statement after the passing of Susan Solomon, co-founder and CEO of the New York Stem Cell Foundation:

“I am deeply saddened by Susan’s passing. She was a smart, passionate, visionary and dedicated advocate who greatly advanced the medical research field by recognizing three decades ago the great promise of stem cell research. 

“Her founding of, and commitment to the New York Stem Cell Foundation and the field of stem cell science has advanced cures for people across the globe.  From cancer, to Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, ALS, parkinson’s, diabetes and much more, stem cell research that she propelled and supported has led to treatments and cures, making life better for countless New Yorkers and people worldwide. Under her leadership, funding streams were created for early career researchers to advance their investigations. In recognition of the gender gap in research, she created a program to advance women in STEM fields.

“We are grateful for all her contributions and her collaborative nature. My thoughts go out to her family and friends and the entire scientific community that mourns her loss. May her memory be a blessing.”

American Urological Association Summer Medical Student Fellowship Awarded to Joseph Marte, AMSNY Health Policy Intern

This summer, the American Urological Association awarded Joseph Marte, M1 student at CUNY School of Medicine and health policy intern at the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), a student fellowship to conduct research with Dr. Gregory Joice at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. AUA’s Summer Medical Student Fellowship Program creates an opportunity for a small group of exemplary medical students to pursue urology research alongside world-class urologic scientists. Marte’s fellowship is sponsored by AUA New York Section.

Marte has been connected with AMSNY since his experience with the Staten Island University Hospital’s Physician Career Enhancement Program, and began interning with the organization in 2020, focusing on health policy. During his time with the organization, he has played a vital role in engaging medical students in studies conducted by AMSNY, exploring the components of diversity in medicine pipeline programs, as well as students’ reactions to changes in curriculum during the pandemic. He also contributed to the development of focus groups for an AMSNY symposium on improving diversity among basic-science researchers. 

His AUA research project is focused on the health impacts of priapism (prolonged erection of the penis) and disparities of care in treatment of this urologic emergency. Using data from several large national and state databases, he is using statistical software to look at emergency room use, surgery outcomes, and more to find trends in treatment. The goal is for Marte to author a paper that would be accepted to present findings at a conference.

Dr. Joice, Marte’s mentor and supervisor on the project, said this kind of immersive research experience is extremely valuable in preparing for a medical career and applying to residency programs.

“I started my path towards urology around the same time Joe did, and learned the same kind of research processes—building skills like acquiring data, summarizing, and presenting information that continue to pay dividends,” said Dr. Joice, an assistant professor of urology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “The foundation he’s building this summer can be applied to any number of projects, and before he knows it will be an expert in this area of urological research.”

Faculty mentors play an important role in medical education, which is one of a handful of fields that still apply an apprenticeship approach to training. 

“The guidance from mentors is invaluable, when they have already been through what you are going through,” said Marte. “To have them able to share based on their own experience, makes achieving your goals seem so much more plausible.”

Crain’s New York: More diversity is needed among state doctors

Photo of a Black doctor
Getty Images

The latest report from the Center for Health Workforce Studies found that not only are job prospects worsening for New York’s medical residents but a lack of diversity among the resident population is also persistent.

It is a problem because outcomes are improved when patients can access care from doctors from a similar racial or ethnic background. Research has shown the mortality rate for Black babies is improved dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth, and cardiovascular mortality rates for Black men are improved when they see Black doctors.

To address disparities, we need to increase diversity in medicine. That requires providing support for aspiring doctors from underrepresented backgrounds throughout their education, years before they get to residency.

Diversifying the pipeline of students entering and graduating from medical school requires a multifaceted approach of programs and scholarships. Thankfully, Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Department of Health recognize the necessity, and this year New York doubled its investment in diversity-in-medicine pipeline programs run by the Associated Medical Schools of New York.

Such efforts work. First-year medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine recently exceeded 20% in New York state for the first time since the metric was tracked. Increased commitment to diversity-in-medicine programs will lead to a shift in the demographics of early-career doctors and ultimately improve health care in New York.

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


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.”