Med Student Pays it Forward with Diversity Outreach

Growing up in Elmont, NY, Dondre Irving was surrounded by diversity, except for one key area — all his doctors were white.

Irving had no idea this was a national trend until he started learning about the medical field, hoping to become part of the disproportionately small group of black men in medicine. In fact, fewer black men applied to and enrolled in medical school in 2014 – the year before Irving began his training – than in the 1970’s.

But despite a lack of role models in the field, Irving was determined to pursue his dream, which grew out of a love of science and service. Support and examples of hard work from his parents, Jamaican immigrants, and his older siblings led him to pursue a 7-year B.S./D.O. program offered by SUNY New Paltz and NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine.

While at New Paltz, Irving had the opportunity to participate in the College Science Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), which provided academic enrichment, career development and research opportunities.

“The CSTEP program was like a family,” said Irving. “It was a network for help, and a place where I formed close bonds.” It’s also the place he began paying it forward.

Through the CSTEP program, Irving tutored younger students and found he loved giving others a leg up. He’s continued that work as he’s moved on to medical school, engaging with high school and middle schoolers through NYIT’s STEP program and as president of the NYIT SNMA (Student National Medical Association), which aims to support current and future underrepresented minority medical students and address the needs of underserved communities.

He plans to make giving back through education initiatives a priority as he establishes his career, and hopes that these efforts will lead to an increase in doctors from underrepresented backgrounds.

“We want to increase diversity, starting from the bottom of the pipeline,” said Irving. “The earlier you know your interests, the better you can direct your education.”