Medical Student Blanco Wins AMA Award for Commitment to Diversity

 Scholarship recipient Michael J. Blanco tends to a patient at UB’s Lighthouse Clinic.

Scholarship recipient Michael J. Blanco tends to a patient at UB’s Lighthouse Clinic.

Published July 10, 2012

For the second year in a row, a UB medical student has won the prestigious American Medical Association Foundation Minority Scholars Award.

Michael J. Blanco is one of only 13 nationwide recipients of the $10,000 scholarship, which recognizes academically outstanding medical students committed to promoting diversity in medicine and eliminating health care disparities.

Michael J. Blanco is one of only 13 nationwide recipients of the $10,000 scholarship.

Work at Free Clinic Includes Infectious Disease Testing

Blanco won the award in part for his work at UB’s Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic, a walk-in clinic on Buffalo’s East Side where medical students, supervised by faculty, provide routine, non-emergent care.

“The Lighthouse is part of the reason I came here,” says the Florida native and third-year medical student, adding that he wanted to be part of UB’s efforts to care for underserved populations.

Blanco has served as the infectious disease manager at Lighthouse, counseling patients and testing them for such conditions as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Budget cuts have forced many Buffalo-area clinics that provided STD testing to close, making these services especially important.

The Erie County Department of Health tests the samples that the clinic draws for free, Blanco explains, in return receiving access to data from the Lighthouse’s patient population. Blanco outlined the unique cooperative model in a poster he presented at this year’s national conference of the Society of Student-Run Free Clinics.

“A lot of free medical clinics are experiencing funding problems, so we wanted to describe that relationship, which has been mutually beneficial,” he says.

Encouraging Health Care Careers Among Minority Youth

Blanco has also served as AMA Minority Issues Committee Liaison and organized a Doctors Back to School program, which encourages local minority high school students to pursue health care careers.

“We try to motivate them because they see medical students and doctors who look like them—so they know that opportunities are out there and there’s limitless potential,” he says.