Published December 5, 2018
Nearly twice as many students from underrepresented groups enrolled in the class of 2022 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB than in the previous year.
According to data from the Office of Medical Admissions at the Jacobs School, 33 students out of 180 students in the Class of 2022 are from underrepresented groups. The previous year, the first year that the Jacobs School’s incoming class size increased from 144 to 180, there were 18 students from underrepresented groups.
“Last year, we had a total of 18 underrepresented students, so we have almost doubled the number this year,” says Dori Marshall, associate dean of admissions at the Jacobs School and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry.
Among the 33 students are 20 African-American students, up from eight in 2017. That’s important, Marshall explains, because the number of African-American physicians nationally has remained low. Studies show that a more diverse physician workforce improves the care of the nation’s increasingly diverse patient population and helps mitigate health care disparities.
Even in a diverse state like New York, where African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos comprise more than 30 percent of the population, she adds, they make up just 12 percent of the state’s physician workforce, according to data from the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany.
While numerous factors can contribute to an increase in underrepresented students, a critical ingredient in this year’s increase was an event held last May called Second Look Weekend. It was an opportunity for accepted students to take a closer look at the Jacobs School during a weekend of events designed for them.
The idea for it began with Karole Collier, then a first-year student at the Jacobs School, who had read an article from the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) about increasing the number of underrepresented students in medical schools. SNMA is the national organization of doctors and medical students committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students with the goal of increasing the number of culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.
“The article said that medical school administrations are underutilizing their underrepresented students on campus,” Collier notes.
“She (Collier) told us we were missing an opportunity to bring underrepresented students to our campus and to talk up our school,” Marshall says. “She said we needed to have a ‘second look’ day for underrepresented students.”
Marshall and her colleagues in admissions were immediately supportive.
Collier took her idea to physicians and businesses on Buffalo’s East Side, a neighborhood immediately surrounding the Jacobs School. She reached out to Raul Vasquez, an alumnus and founder and president of a large, urban practice called the Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network. “He was willing not only to sponsor some meals for the weekend, but he also said if I could collect some sponsorships, he would galvanize mentors in the community to welcome these students,” she recalls.
More physicians agreed to participate, including Emmekunla K. Nylander, an obstetrician-gynecologist, and Willie Underwood, a urologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute. Jacobs School officials who took part included Jonathan D. Daniels, a pediatrician and associate director of admissions; David Milling, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs; Luther K. Robinson, professor emeritus of pediatrics; Charles Severin, assistant dean for student affairs; Jaafar Angevin, post-baccalaureate program coordinator; and Dori Marshall.
Twenty-eight students attended, some with their parents. Collier negotiated a rate from Hostel Buffalo-Niagara for some attendees, while others stayed with current students or physicians.
“We had an incredible turnout,” Collier says. “We just need to make sure that this year, the students are galvanized in the same way. This next year is about longevity and strengthening relationships and the pipeline.”
Taking care of that pipeline has long been a focus of the Jacobs School, the Office of Medical Admissions and the school’s Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement. Each year, Marshall, Milling, Daniels and Angevin make recruiting trips to local, regional and national meetings to educate prospective medical students from underrepresented groups about the Jacobs School.
They work with pipeline programs at UB, such as the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) for high school students and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) for college students, both funded by New York State.
Efforts also occur through the Early Opportunity Program in Medicine (EOPIM) affiliations with local colleges, as well as with two historically black colleges in Mississippi.
The Jacobs School is home to one of New York State’s largest post-baccalaureate programs designed to increase the number of underrepresented students in medical school. Through a partnership with the Associated Medical Schools of New York, the Jacobs School and other participating New York State schools refer underrepresented students who possess the intellectual ability to succeed in medical school but don’t meet certain academic criteria to participate in the academically intense, year-long program. Students receive provisional acceptance from a referring medical school in the state; they matriculate at that school upon successfully completing the post-baccalaureate program.
The Diversity in Medicine scholarship, funded by the New York State Legislature, also plays a role. It provides medical school tuition for a year to several underrepresented students throughout the state. In return, students must commit to work in a New York State-designated medically underserved community.
Currently, three Jacobs School students are recipients of Diversity in Medicine scholarships. They are Karole Collier, Class of 2021; Natasha Borrero, Class of 2020; and Bradley Frate, Class of 2019.