Program celebrates 25 years of diversifying New York’s physician workforce

Nathanael Lee stands in front of a blackboard teaching students in UB's post-baccalaureate program aimed at boosting minorities who go to medical school.

Nathanael J. Lee of Flushing, NY, and a fourth-year medical student, tutors UB's post-baccalaureate students in clinical biochemistry.

Each student in the yearlong AMSNY/UB post-baccalaureate program benefits from a curriculum tailored to their needs

Release Date: October 22, 2015

David Milling

David Milling

“Were it not for this program, our post-baccalaureate students who are now successful physicians, many of them practicing in underserved communities, would not have attended medical school.”
David Milling, senior assoicate dean for student and academic affairs, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The state’s first program specifically designed to diversify New York’s physician workforce turns 25 this year. Having produced more than 400 successful graduates who otherwise would not have attended medical school, the post-baccalaureate program supported by the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo has played an important role in helping to develop a physician workforce that better reflects the state’s increasing diversity.

This weekend, 40 successful post-baccalaureate alumni will converge on Buffalo to celebrate the program and discuss how their lives changed because of it.

Emmekunla K. Nylander, MD, will be one of them. Now a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist and a partner with Buffalo Ob-Gyn of Amherst, Nylander was a member of the post-baccalaureate class of 1992. In addition to her thriving practice, she also conducts medical missions to Ghana to provide medical attention to women in rural areas.

A Williamsville native, Nylander had always wanted to be a physician but hadn’t taken some of the prerequisite science courses in college. She worked for several years after college, then applied to medical school but was rejected.

The invitation to attend the post-baccalaureate program is what helped transform her into the successful physician she is today. She earned her MD from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and went on to do a residency at the University of Texas.

“The post-baccalaureate program was wonderful,” says Nylander. “I had never taken back-to-back science courses and calculus, but I was able to get a 4.0 GPA that year. It gave me the confidence to know that I had made the right decision and that I could be successful.”

Every July, the program brings to Buffalo 20-25 promising students from underrepresented communities and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who long to serve their communities but who may not meet all of the criteria that medical schools are seeking. Nearly 90 percent of participants successfully graduate from medical school. Over the years, more than 400 students have participated: 72 percent are African American; 25 percent are Hispanic; 2 percent are Native American and 75 percent are female.

“We know that diversity in medicine leads to better health outcomes for patients,” said Jo Wiederhorn, president of AMSNY. “We have a long way to go in diversifying the physician workforce, but this program is making a difference, producing great doctors for New York State’s residents.  We are grateful for the support we receive from the state for this program.”

Post-baccalaureate students are accepted conditionally to one of 10 participating New York State medical schools. UB is one of them.  Students are guaranteed acceptance into the medical school that recommends them, contingent on their successful completion of the yearlong “boot camp” type program at UB. They pay no tuition and are given a living stipend. Support is provided by the New York State Department of Health through the annual legislative budget process.

For each student, an individualized curriculum is designed to improve his or her performance in areas where they need help. They take upper-level science classes, all taught by UB faculty and receive intensive tutoring and mentoring.

“Were it not for this program, our post-baccalaureate students who are now successful physicians, many of them practicing in underserved communities, would not have attended medical school,” said David A. Milling, MD, UB’s senior associate dean for student and academic affairs.

Christine Cummings from Port Jefferson is spending this year at UB as a post-baccalaureate student; next fall, she will attend the medical school at Hofstra University. She is glad that she had been invited into the program. “For me, it was kind of like a sigh of relief,” she said, since she had taken many non-science courses in college and then after college, worked as a teacher with Teach for America. “Right now, I’m taking classes I’ve never really been exposed to and it’s been really helpful.”

Karl Roberts of Brooklyn also is a current student in the program who will attend Albert Einstein College of Medicine next fall. As a committed New York City dweller, he had no intention of spending a year at UB, but he changed his mind when he learned that the post-baccalaureate program would pave his way to medical school. “I always thought that, ‘OK, you didn’t get into medical school this time, let’s try again,’” he said. “But I found out that if I went into this program and finished it successfully, then I was guaranteed admission. It sounded too good to be true.”

And while the program’s focus on academics is primary, there are plenty of social and networking opportunities.

For example, the program holds a welcome-back barbecue every summer, where students in the program meet current UB medical students, residents and alumni from underrepresented groups, as well as local physicians and alumni from the post-baccalaureate program.

That’s where Christine learned that post-baccalaureate program alumni develop a powerful network that can aid them not only through medical school but also through residency training and beyond.

“I met a fourth-year medical student who had gone through the post-baccalaureate program and she told me she’s been applying to residency programs where she knows somebody will be an advocate for her, or where she knows there’s someone else who has also gone through the program,” she said. “I didn’t realize how important that was.”

Jaafar Angevin, the program coordinator at UB, noted the networking aspect is key.  “We tell the students, ‘You’re here temporarily, but these individuals that you’re here with, this is the beginning of your network.’ One of the program’s goals is to increase the number of underrepresented physicians in hopes that they will serve the communities that they’re from. That’s your network, people of like mind that you already know, no matter where you go.”

The anniversary program will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 24 at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, 875 Ellicott St., Buffalo.


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