In mid-August of its 51st year, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine welcomed the Class of 2010. Echoing Albert Einstein's expressed wishes when he lent his name to the medical school, this class is indeed diverse, hailing from 22 countries and ranging in age from 20 to 34. Among the class is a group of 21 minority students considered underrepresented in medicine. Throughout their course of study at the medical school, these students will benefit from Einstein's long-term commitment to the recruitment and retention of minority students.
The first of these efforts for the new minority students was the annual two-day Minority Student Retreat held after the first week of classes in nearby Tarrytown, New York, coordinated by the Einstein Office of Diversity Enhancement. The Retreat aims to foster a sense of community among the minority students, to prepare them for the academic and personal stressors they will encounter in medical school, and to help them maximize the resources available to them.
For the past 24 years, the Office of Diversity Enhancement (formerly called the Office of Minority Student Affairs) has played a major role in serving the needs of minority students enrolled in the medical school. Under the leadership of Milton Gumbs, M.D., Associate Dean, and Assistant Dean Nilda I. Soto, M.S.Ed., the office tracks the performance of minority students and provides a haven of support and advisement for them as they adjust to the medical school environment and progress through the curriculum. In addition, for many years, the Office has provided after-school and summer programs for minority high school students and summer research fellowship programs for undergraduate college students. This investment in our community is designed to attract students to a career in medicine early in the course of their education.
Einstein's focus on creating a diverse student body is a longstanding one, dating back to the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. - Robert F. Kennedy Program for Special Studies in 1968. Recognizing that many minority students lacked the proper preparation for medical school in their undergraduate institutions, the Einstein faculty planning the program recruited a small group of students for yearlong immersion in a program designed to prepare them to compete for admission to medical school. The students were registered as undergraduates at Yeshiva University and received full-tuition, a stipend for living expenses, and all books and laboratory equipment essential to their studies. At the end of the first year of the program, all seven initial King - Kennedy scholars were offered places in the next class entering Einstein.
Soon after establishing the King – Kennedy Program, Einstein's Senate formed a Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) with responsibility for recruitment and retention of minority students. Recognizing that such programs require expert management and financial support, not to mention advocacy, MAC recommended that an office devoted specifically to these activities be developed within the Office of Education. Thus, the Office of Special Education Programs, the forerunner of the Office for Diversity Enhancement, was established in 1981. This new Office rapidly became the focal center for attracting highly qualified minority students, developing an academic support system, and providing adequate guidance and counseling services.
Einstein’s minority students have always been active in the many student organizations on campus. Chief among these are the Student National Medical Organization (SNMA) and the Boricua Latino Health Organization (BLHO). The two organizations are devoted to promoting medical education as a career among minority students, increasing enrollment and retention of minority students in medical school, and advocating for improved, culturally sensitive health care services for underserved populations. Together, the organizations host many events during the school year, including lectures, clothing drives, and a senior dinner for graduating medical students. Membership in the Einstein chapters of SNMA and BLHO promotes strong bonds among minority students at Einstein and strengthens ties with the local community. Such membership is often a springboard to national leadership positions: from 2001 to 2002, Francine Garrett, M.D., Ph.D., Class of 2005, served as SNMA national Chairperson of the Board. Esther Vivas, Class of 2006, was Co-Chair of the BLHO national organization.
Einstein’s commitment to diversity does not end with programs for medical students. For the past three years, and under the co-sponsorship of the Education & Faculty Support Committee and its Faculty Mentoring Group, together with Bronx CREED and Einstein's Hispanic Center of Excellence – and with major financial support from the Office of the Dean – Einstein has mounted the highly successful Minority & Women Faculty Career Development Day. This event has attracted minority and women faculty from all Einstein affiliates and from clinical and basic science departments alike.
Expanding Cross-Cultural Education Across the Curriculum:
In a related development, Einstein’s Hispanic Center of Excellence, originally established with support from a federal grant, continues its activities with University funding.
The work of the Hispanic Center supplements the ongoing commitment by the College of Medicine to provide programs for students abroad in Latin American countries, as well as establishing and supporting the inclusion of cultural competency throughout the curriculum. Providing expanded clinical experiences in community centers and hospitals that serve underrepresented minority patients is another of the center’s goals. Historically, these experiences have enabled Einstein students to identify health issues and disparities in health care they may not have witnessed in their home communities. For further information about the Hispanic Center of Excellence contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information about the Office of Diversity Enhancement, please contact: Ms. Nilda I. Soto, Assistant Dean, Office of Education, 718.430.3091, email@example.com.