Media advisory: Getting to know Buffalo is a priority for these medical students

First-ever community immersion program set for spring break

Release Date: April 4, 2016 This content is archived.

“There is a core of students here that is really interested in global health and wellness in the underserved... ”
Linda Pessar, MD, Director, Center for Medical Humanities
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. —Visits to a mosque, an Eastside church and a Buddhist monastery  in Buffalo, meetings with refugees, and lectures and discussions with community leaders about poverty and public health are on the agenda this week for 13 first-year students in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

The school’s first-ever community immersion program takes place April 4 - 8, during the students’ spring break. A schedule of events is below and many are open to members of the media. Interested media should contact Ellen Goldbaum,, 716-645- 4605.

The idea for the pilot community immersion program came from students involved with the Center for Medical Humanities in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The center focuses on psychological, social, cultural, and economic forces that influence the practice of medicine and the doctor-patient relationship.

 “The students said to me, ‘We want to spend spring break making connections with members of the community outside of the medical school on their own turf,’” said Linda Pessar, MD, professor emerita of psychiatry and director of the UB Center for Medical Humanities.  “They thought it was important for them to understand the Buffalo community in which they were learning about medicine and the people who came for care.”

Pessar said that these concerns are being expressed nationally, especially in academic medicine circles.

“Throughout medicine, there is increased interest in becoming more accessible to the average person and not putting up so many hierarchical obstacles, which are especially true for people living in poverty and from other cultures,” she said.

It’s part of a trend Pessar has seen increase over the past few years at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“There is a core of students here that is really interested in global health and wellness in the underserved, which is wonderful to see and which the medical school is nurturing,” she said.

At the same time, she added, with the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences moving downtown by 2017, outreach to the community will be more important than ever.

“Involvement of our school with the community is of enormous importance to the medical school as we move downtown,” Pessar said. “We want very much to be good neighbors.

“The students want to meet people in the community on their own terms and speak to them in a context in which they feel comfortable.”

Topics students want to discuss include how people in the community experience health care, what they think are impediments to health and wellness, what could make a difference to how comfortable they feel within the health care system and what changes would improve access for them.

Pessar said the response from Buffalo’s community organizations was amazingly positive.

“Everyone was immediately on board,” she said.

She added that strong support came from the administration of the medical school including Alan Lesse, MD, senior associate dean for curriculum and David Milling, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs.

The schedule is below:

History of Buffalo and its neighborhoods, April 4

  • 10 a.m. to noon - Eastside tour with Sam Magavern, co-director, Partnership for the Public Good; lunch at Towne Restaurant.
  • 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. - Tour of Allentown, Richmond Ave., Delaware Park with urban activist Mark Goldman.

Poverty including race and culture, April 5

  • 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. - Hopewell Baptist Church, meeting with Henry Louis Taylor, professor, UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning and director, Center for Urban Studies; Pastor Kinzer Pointer, Greater Buffalo United Ministers and Pastor Dennis Lee.
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Walking tours of the neighborhood.

Immigrants and refugees, April 6

  • 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Introduction to Yemeni community in Lackawanna with Gamileh Jamil.
  • 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. - Conversation with Yemeni women.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. - Mosque visit.
  • 2 p.m. - Meeting with Burmese Community Support Center with Ba Zan Lin at monastery and discussion with former Myanmar political prisoners.

Public health and wellness, April 7

  • 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. - Visit to Child Advocacy Center.
  • 10:45 a.m. to noon - Visits to local agencies.
  • 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Program at the United Way, discussion with Michael Weiner, Buffalo United Way and Gayle Burstein, commissioner, Erie County Department of Health.

Wrap up session, April 8

  • 9 a.m. to noon - Presentation and discussion about health disparities with Heather Orom, associate professor in UB School of Public Health and Health Professions.
  • 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. - Discussion with local physicians engaged with community. Kim Griswold, MD, MPH, associate professor in the UB Department of Family Medicine and Kirk Scirto, MD, medical director, VIVE.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager
Tel: 716-645-4605