Three Einstein Medical Students Receive AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Scholarships
A trio of Einstein medical students—Diana Perez, Juan Vazquez, and Obioesio Bassey—each have been awarded a coveted Diversity in Medicine grant from the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) for their commitment to caring for the underserved. Three of only five recipients selected this year, each will receive $42,000 to help defray the cost of medical school tuition and fees.
“This year, more than 22 students applied for five available scholarships,” explained Nilda I. Soto, assistant dean in the office of diversity enhancement and director of the Einstein Enrichment Program. “That AMSNY selected Einstein students to receive three of them is extraordinary and speaks to the commitment of our student body overall and these students in particular. We couldn’t be prouder.”
In all, each academic year, scholarships are given to 10 New York medical students who have completed the AMSNY post-baccalaureate program and commit to at least two years of practicing medicine in an underserved area within New York State. Recipients are selected on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to serving their communities.
Investing in Diversity
Einstein has participated in AMSNY’s post-baccalaureate program for more than 23 years. It provides a way for promising applicants from groups historically underrepresented in medicine to receive a full year of additional training and formal mentoring, with a guaranteed spot at Einstein upon successful completion of the program.
“Diversity in medicine is critically important to Einstein, to members of our community, and to our graduate’s future patients,” says Ms. Soto. “The post-bac program helps qualified applicants get the support they need to thrive in medical school. And the Diversity in Medicine scholarship allows students to be freed of borrowing $42,000, lifting a significant burden off their shoulders.”
One of the scholarship winners, Diana—who has applied for and earned the scholarship all four years of medical school—agreed, adding, “These scholarships allow me to focus on my passion without the financial burden of paying for medical school.”
(Diana has the distinction of being the only Einstein student to earn this honor each year of medical school.)
Returning to Einstein
Diana was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in the Bronx, and became interested in medicine after volunteering in a hospital emergency room. While in college, she took part in Einstein’s Summer Undergraduate Medical Program, a six-week program that offers students from underrepresented groups an opportunity to “shadow” a physician mentor, an important experience for medical school applicants.
“I gained clinical experience, saw things I hadn't seen before, and fell in love with medicine,” she said.
To further her scientific knowledge, she completed AMSNY’s two-year post-baccalaureate program, at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. “They told me I could stay there for med school,” she said, “but my desire to train with a diverse patient population in an urban environment and be close to family called me back to my community.”
Diana will graduate in 2021.
A Dream Realized
Born in Venezuela and raised in Miami, Juan always knew he would become a doctor. “I loved biology and learning about the human body,” he said.
When he was a sophomore in college, he met Ms. Soto, who visited his campus to talk to pre-med students.
“After hearing about Einstein’s community outreach, ample research opportunities, and commitment to diversity, I had to apply,” he said. The post-bac program at the University at Buffalo “represented a second chance to accomplish my dream,” he added.
Juan is now on the wards doing third-year clinical rotations. He is a member of the Class of 2022.
Finding a Community
Growing up Columbus, GA, Obiesio helped take care of a brother with autism spectrum disorder while his parents were at work. “That involved me sitting in on psychiatrist meetings and doctor visits,” he said.
He added, “My father is also a physician, who came from Nigeria to the United States to practice medicine, so those two factors really influenced me.”
The Buffalo post-bac program provided “a support system of other students who were also people of color and had similar mindsets—the focus was on helping people,” he said.
Impressed by Einstein’s community involvement, strong public health focus, and how friendly everyone was, Obioesio came north to the College of Medicine with the feeling he’d found a good fit for himself. Also in the Class of 2022, he and Juan had met in Buffalo, and they are now roommates at Einstein.
Diana will graduate this spring and will be the first of the three AMSNY honorees to put their plans into action. Her goal is straightforward: “To practice family medicine in an urban underserved area and address issues of inequality through patient care, mentoring, and research advocacy.”
Neurology tops Juan’s list of potential specialties. “Witnessing and learning of the many disparities in medicine has shaped the type of physician I want to be,” he said. “Serving communities like the one I come from has always been the goal. To be rewarded for doing so is truly inspiring.”
“My interest has always leaned towards psychiatry,” said Obioesio. “People, especially people of color, don’t always get a chance to address their mental health because they’re focused on their physical health, their careers, or just trying to survive.” He hopes to create a public health center or clinic involved in researching and implementing interventions in underserved communities.
Overcoming Doubt and Inspiring Others
What do these achievers have to say to students who think their dreams are impossible? “They’re flat-out wrong,” said Juan. “There were times I thought I would never be where I am now, so I can relate to feelings of doubt. Work hard, take advantage of opportunity, and keep whatever motivates you to pursue this career as your North Star.”
“Unless you’ve tried it yourself, no one knows what is impossible or not,” said Obioesio. “People need room to fail in order to learn from their mistakes.”
Diana agreed. “Not everything happens according to your original plans. You’re going to hit so many bumps on the road, and you might think it’s the end. But when one door closes, you may find that another one opens with even more opportunities for growth. Persevere!”
Posted on: Friday, September 11, 2020