Buffalo News Editorial: Restore funding for health program

Even in a year of a significant deficit, this cut doesn’t make sense. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed 2018-19 state budget would make it harder for minority students to become doctors, with unwanted consequences for them, for patients and for communities.

The total increase in funding sought for this and a related program is about $1.6 million. That’s not even a rounding error in a budget proposal of $168 billion. It will do almost nothing to make up for the projected deficit of $4.4 billion.

Lawmakers and the governor should restore this funding, if necessary by taking it out of education, which is vastly overfunded for the results it produces.

The main program offers a year’s mentoring for minority students with an interest in becoming doctors but lack the academic standing to enter medical school. The program, funded two years ago at $1.6 million, provides a stipend to students who are coached for a year. They are required to focus on their studies and are not allowed to hold down jobs. It works: Advocates of the program say 95 percent of those who enter the program move on to medical school.

The benefits are significant, and not just to the students who are able to enter an valuable profession. As an article in NEJM Catalyst notes, “Racial health disparities are associated with substantial annual economic losses nationally,” which included $35 billion in excess health care spending, $10 billion in lost productivity and nearly $200 billion in premature deaths.

Research shows that patients have better outcomes, and are more willing to discuss treatment plans when their doctors are of a similar race or ethnicity. And the benefits radiate beyond that, since the new doctors are required to practice for a time in underserved areas.

The current year’s budget already cut the program to $1.24 million from the previous year’s $1.6 million. The governor’s proposed spending plan would further drop funding to $995,000. Backers are asking the governor to restore funding to $1.6 million, which is still notably less than the program received at its maximum funding of $1.96 million.

That requests accounts for just over half what the Associated Medical Schools of New York are asking. The remaining $1 million is for restored and expanded funding of a scholarship program that helps some of these students afford medical school once they get there.

It’s true that Albany needs to restrain its budget. That is true every year in a state with a history of overspending. It is especially true this year. But spending cuts need to be based in part on what will be gained versus the economic cost of reduced support. In this case, the balance is off.

Lawmakers and the governor should restore this funding and find other ways to save $1.6 million.


AMSNY Calls on Legislature to Stop Cuts to Diversity in Medicine Programs

1 in 5 Students from AMSNY Pipeline Programs Won’t Become a Doctor if State Cuts Funding 20%, Hurting Healthcare in NY

(New York, NY) – The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), on behalf of the state’s 16 medical schools, are calling on state legislators to reject a proposed 20% cut to diversity in medicine pipeline programs included in the New York State Executive Budget for FY19.

If enacted, a 20% cut would mean that one in five future AMSNY pipeline students from underrepresented backgrounds would not have the opportunity to become a doctor – a loss that will also be felt by New York’s diverse residents.

New York already has a big diversity gap: underrepresented minorities (Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos) make up approximately 31% of the 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.

Having more doctors who represent the great diversity of New York state will further enable us to improve health outcomes, but diversity in medicine programs are consistently on the chopping block,” said Jo Wiederhorn, President and CEO of AMSNY. “We need state legislators to help New York move forward, not backward, in diversifying our physician workforce for the sake of our residents.”

Barriers to a career in medicine prevent many individuals from underrepresented backgrounds from pursuing their dreams of becoming a doctor. Too many students are discouraged by school counselors, or don’t understand the criteria and prerequisites for medical school, find the application process confusing, and see the financial commitment as overwhelmingly daunting.

In order to help prospective doctors overcome these barriers, AMSNY has successfully run diversity in medicine pipeline programs across New York State for 25 years. 95% of students in AMSNY post-collegiate programs have gone on to become doctors. Without these programs, these students would not have been accepted to medical school.

At its height, AMSNY received $1.96M in NYS Department of Health funding for diversity programs. Between FY09 and FY18 the budget had been slowly reduced, due to the recession.  However last year, FY18, the budget was reduced 22.5%, bringing funding to $1.244M.  This necessitated defunding one program completely and reducing the number of students served from 100 in 2009 to 45 in 2018.

The FY19 budget proposes an additional 20% cut, which would be devastating to the operation of pipeline programs, and resulting in an additional one in five students losing the opportunity to become a doctor.


The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) is a consortium of the 16 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:


Jaime Williams

Politico NY: Stem cell researchers plead for funding program

By Nick Niedzwiadek

02/05/2018 06:37 PM EDT

ALBANY — Stem cell researchers touted the results of New York’s decade of investment in their work Monday and advocated for a critical funding program’s continued existence.

The New York State Stem Cell Science program, a $600 million initiative, began in 2007 under then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Supporters laud the program for helping New York’s research labs remain competitive nationally, creating new jobs and tax revenue and advancing potentially historic medical research.

“Without NYSTEM, New York will frankly not be taken seriously as a center of stem cell research,” said Susan Solomon, founder and chief executive officer of the New York Stem Cell Foundation.

New York has invested more than $350 million for hundreds of research projects at 39 New York institutions. Part of that money has gone toward training more than 200 new researchers, more than half of whom are now employed throughout the state, bolstering the number of people versed in the highly specialized field.

Advocates are pressuring the state to continue its commitment in part because of past funding issues. In 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomoannounced $36 million in state money, only to delay sending out the awards for months, perplexing researchers and school administrators.

Stem cell research advocates on Monday said the program fills a needed gap between the early-stage research, which the National Institutes of Health is willing to fund, and the promising work that attracts venture capital and biotechnology firms.

“NIH doesn’t fund all kinds of research, and they’re very risk-averse,” said Ruth Lehmann, chair of cell biology at New York University School of Medicine. “NYSTEM has really helped us to fund the high-risk research … that’s really led to the type of rewards you’d want from that high-risk research.”

NYSTEM goes toward research that would struggle to get funded otherwise, they said.

“You have to de-risk it before you can attract venture capital or biotech,” Solomon said.

Stem cell research is among the most promising avenues for finding a cure for such afflictions as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, bone disease and diabetes.

Lorenz Studer, a Parkinson’s researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has received nearly $24 million in various grants through the program.

“This is a really important time to have the New York funding,” Studer, a 2015 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” said in an interview.

Her funding included a $14.9 million award in 2012 for a research consortium to develop a stem cell-based therapy for Parkinson’s.

Studer was able to parlay his promising work and form a company called BlueRock Therapeutics, which secured $225 million in Series A financing from Versant Ventures and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG.

He said the company is looking to begin human trials by the end of the year.

“We’re very close to starting,” he said.

Advocates say success stories like Studer’s are key to maintaining support for the program and keeping New York competitive with states like California and Massachusetts, which are awash in both venture capital and the intellectual capital needed to advance stem cell research.

“There’s kind of a joke that February is a wonderful recruiting month for California,” Solomon said. “It’s snowing here and it’s 80 degrees in San Diego.”

To view online:



By Capital Tonight Staff  |  February 5, 2018 @8:22 PM

New York Stem Cell Science awards support research into things like blood disorders, cancer, or the Zika virus. And it all started with a $600 million investment back in 2007. Monday, researchers gave lawmakers an update on some of the work they’ve been doing, and how it is impacting not only medicine but the state’s economy. Jo Wiederhorn of the Associated Medical Schools of New York explains.

Watch here.

Daily News Op-ed: Diversity can make New York healthier

More doctors should know the culture, and the language



Saturday, December 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

Sheba Ebhote, the daughter of a Guyanese immigrant, grew up in Brooklyn, where she saw her family struggle to get their health-care needs met. A cultural disconnect between her family members and their doctors led to poor medical care.

That experience motivated Ebhote to become a doctor who would serve members of her community. But she soon discovered pursuing a career in medicine was fraught with obstacles and barriers, particularly for individuals traditionally underrepresented in medicine.

African Americans and Latinos, who together make up 31% of New York’s population, are only 12% of the state’s physician workforce. Making matters worse, for some groups, like black males, the number enrolled in medical school has actually declined over the past four decades: The number of black male medical students statewide went from 548 students in 1978 to 515 in 2014.

Those of us who work at all levels of education, health care and government have a collective responsibility to help more underrepresented students find the path to and through medical school.

This is not just about equal opportunity.

Diversity in medicine is key to improving the health of New Yorkers. Data shows that when patients and physicians are from similar backgrounds and speak the same language, health outcomes improve. This is due to longer patient visits, increased patient satisfaction and improved adherence to treatment.

Doctors from racial and ethnic backgrounds typically underrepresented in medicine are also significantly more likely to practice primary care, and to practice in areas federally designated as medically underserved.

But many obstacles exist along the path to becoming a physician for students such as Ebhote.

High school and college advisors have misconceptions about the medical school application process and the qualifications that are needed to enter medical school. Those misconceptions often deter students from applying. In addition, the cost of medical school tuition — the median level of debt for the class of 2017 was $192,000, not including accrued interest — is often used as a rationale for suggesting a student take a different career path.

There are other challenges. In college, Ebhote found that her high school curriculum had not prepared her to tackle pre-med courses. Her grades left her at a competitive disadvantage when applying to medical school.

The solution for students like her is simple: Access to medical school pipeline programs that provide academic enrichment and mentoring.

The Associated Medical Schools of New York, which I lead, has overseen successful pipeline programs since 1985. AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Program, which is supported by the New York State Department of Health, has enabled over 450 students from economically or educationally underserved areas to become doctors.

The programs help students prepare academically for medical school and provide them with the support and guidance they need to navigate the preparation and application process.

When New York Medical College saw Ebhote’s passion and potential, they offered her a conditional acceptance upon successful completion of the post-bac program. Earlier this fall, she donned a white coat as a student of the NYMC class of 2021.

But these programs aren’t enough. The cost of medical school and the ensuing debt remain major obstacles for underrepresented students. Schools in New York provide generous scholarships based on need, but they can’t fill the gap alone.

Earlier this year, New York State, thanks particularly to members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, seeded a new scholarship program with a $500,000 investment.

A group of students underrepresented in medicine are each getting $42,000 paid towards their tuition. For those attending state school, the scholarship covers the full tuition cost. The scholarship lifts the financial barrier to medical school enrollment.

But it has only been funded for one year. The dearth of diversity in medicine suggests we need a long-term investment in scholarships and increased support for pipeline programs. We hope we can count on the state to fill the gap.

Wiederhorn is president of the Associated Medical Schools of New York.

Capital Tonight: Scholarship Aimed at Increasing Diversity in Medicine

By Capital Tonight Staff  |  October 9, 2017 @4:11 PM

A state-sponsored scholarship is helping its first round of med students reduce their debts and make the medical field more diverse. The Associated Medical Schools of New York says having the demographics of the profession match the demographics of the state means better results for patients here. And so the group is pushing to make sure the scholarship stays funded. We talked to Jo Wiederhorn from the association and Assemblyman Crystal Peoples-Stokes about how to do that.

Crain’s Health Pulse: AMSNY’s new med-school scholarships promote diversity  

The Associated Medical Schools of New York on Tuesday announced its first 10 scholarships for disadvantaged and minority medical students to study in the state.

The organization’s new Diversity in Medicine scholarship program is initially funded with a $500,000 one-year grant from the state Department of Health.

The students were selected from among graduates of AMSNY’s post-baccalaureate programs, which offer a pipeline to med school by providing provisional acceptance to successful participants.

Each student will receive $42,000, an award that’s pegged to the cost of tuition and fees at a SUNY medical school. As part of their contract, they must agree to work in an underserved community in New York when they complete their medical training.

In the fall AMSNY will begin advocating in Albany for future budget allocations to continue the program, said Jo Wiederhorn, president of the group that represents the state’s medical schools. “We’ll ask for renewed funding for the 10 students, plus ask for money for another 10 students,” she said. “With the cost of medical school continuing to increase, I think it will help people make the decision to go work in an underserved area.”

From 2011 to 2015, just 12% of the state’s doctors were black or Hispanic—even though those groups accounted for 31% of the state’s population, according to the SUNY Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies. Research shows that having doctors from diverse backgrounds helps improve the quality of care in minority communities, Wiederhorn said. —R.S.