Representatives of the Student National Medical Association.

From left, Karole Collier, who initiated the Second Look Weekend event, Danielle Dunn, Micha Gooden, Gabriel Gomez-Chaves, Jalisa Kelly and Nazeela Tanweer, all Jacobs School medical students, who attended the event last May.

Underrepresented Student Numbers Up at Jacobs School

Published January 8, 2019

The number of students from underrepresented groups in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Class of 2022 is nearly twice that of the previous year’s class.

According to data from the Office of Medical Admissions, 33 out of 180 students in the Class of 2022 are from underrepresented groups, compared to 18 students in the Class of 2021.

Among the 33 students are 20 African-American students, up from eight in 2017.

Diversity Helps Mitigate Health Care Disparities

That’s important because the number of African-American physicians nationally has remained low, according to Dori R. Marshall, MD, associate dean and director of medical admissions and assistant professor of psychiatry.

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 Latinos comprise more than 30 percent of the population, they make up just 12 percent of the state’s physician workforce, according to data from the University at Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies.

Student-Initiated Effort Among Factors

While numerous factors may have contributed to the increase in underrepresented students at the Jacobs School, 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 school during a weekend of events designed especially for them.

The idea for it began with Karole Collier, then a first-year student at the Jacobs School, who had read an article about increasing underrepresented students in medical schools from the Student National Medical Association (SNMA).

That’s 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 noted that medical school administrations are underutilizing their underrepresented students on campus, Collier says.

“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.”

Community Physicians Play Supporting Roles

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 Vazquez, MD ’89, an alumnus and the 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,” Collier recalls.

Collier also reached out to and received assistance from the Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center and Kinzer Pointer, pastor of Agape Fellowship Baptist Church, as she and the SNMA executive board planned every aspect of the weekend, including a map of small businesses, salons, ethnic restaurants and places of worship that may not be readily known to incoming minority students.

The effort also galvanized the support of the Office of Graduate Medical Education via Roseanne C. Berger, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, to include current residents and graduate medical staff, she notes. 

Along with Marshall, Jacobs School officials who participated in the event included:

Other physicians who participated are:

  • Emmekunla K. Nylander, MD ’96, an obstetrician-gynecologist
  • Willie Underwood III, MD, a urologist

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.”

Pipeline Programs Recruit Students

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 for high school students and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program for college students, both funded by New York State.

Efforts also occur through the Early Opportunity Program in Medicine affiliations with local colleges, as well as with two historically black colleges in Mississippi.

Partnerships Open Doors to Increased Access

The Jacobs School is home to one of New York State’s largest postbaccalaureate 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 postbaccalaureate program.

Diversity in Medicine Scholarships Play a Role

The Diversity in Medicine scholarship, funded by the Associated Medical Schools of New York, 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.