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Program Celebrates 25 Years of Diversifying Physician Workforce

Published November 13, 2015

More than 400 medical school graduates have completed a post-baccalaureate program that enables students from underrepresented communities and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to attend medical school.

“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.”
Senior associate dean for student and academic affairs

The program, in its 25th year, is supported by the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY).

Students Receive Intensive Tutoring, Mentoring

Post-baccalaureate students are accepted conditionally to one of 10 participating medical schools in New York State.

Every July, the program brings to the University at Buffalo 20-25 promising students who hope to serve their communities but who may not meet all of the criteria medical schools seek. 

The students are given individualized curriculums designed to improve their performance. They take upper-level science classes, all taught by UB faculty, and they receive intensive tutoring and mentoring.

The program participants are guaranteed acceptance into the medical school that recommends them, contingent on their successful completion of the yearlong intensive program at UB. Nearly 90 percent successfully graduate from medical school.

They pay no tuition and receive a living stipend. Support is provided by the New York State Department of Health through the annual legislative budget process. 

Diversity in Medicine Better for Patients

“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, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs.

“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 and producing great doctors for New York State’s residents.”

Seventy-two percent of the program participants are African-American, 25 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are Native American and 75 percent are female. 

Gaining Lifelong Benefit from Networking Opportunities

Though the program primarily focuses on academics, social and networking opportunities are available for students. 

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 post-baccalaureate student Christine Cummings learned that program alumni develop powerful networks 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, 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,” he said.

Program Alumna Conducts Medical Missions to Ghana

Emmekunla K. Nylander, MD, now a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist and a partner with Buffalo OB/GYN, was a member of the post-baccalaureate class of 1992. In addition to her thriving practice, she conducts medical missions to Ghana to provide medical attention to women in rural areas. 

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 and then applied to medical school, but she was rejected.

The invitation to attend the post-baccalaureate program is what helped transform her into the successful physician she is today. She attended medical school at UB and completed her residency at the University of Texas. 

“The post-baccalaureate program was wonderful,” says Nylander. “I had never taken back-to-back sciences 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.”