Addressing Diversity

Einstein Student Takes Leadership Role in AAMC

Whether it’s tutoring students in an academic achievement program, acting as a church youth leader or serving as a volunteer with the minority outreach program Mentoring in Medicine, making a difference is a recurring theme for Utibe Essien, who is in his third year at Einstein. The native New Yorker now has another role that will enable him to help others:  He was elected the national delegate to Community and Diversity for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), making him the first Einsten student to hold a national position with the organization.

Third-year medical student, Utibe Essien
This is a big honor for Utibe and Einstein,” said Dr. Nadine T. Katz, senior associate dean for student academic affairs. “The AAMC is the organization that represents all accredited medical schools in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the major teaching hospitals, academic health care systems and major academic and scientific societies, so it speaks for faculty, medical students and residents.”

Regarding his role, Mr. Essien explained, “As national delegate, I lead the four regional delegates. We’ll be working to increase diversity in medical schools, from ethnic diversity to gender diversity to LGBT diversity.”

Mr. Essien credits Einstein’s diversity outreach as playing a major role in his own academic life. He recalled, Mentoring in Medicine is a program I first participated in before med school. They told me about Einstein and were working with an anatomy day program here, so I came. I got to meet with Einstein students, and getting their encouragement and advice really motivated me to keep going through the process.”

Nilda I. Soto, assistant dean for diversity enhancement, noted, “Utibe is very much involved in mentoring individuals with an interest in medicine. He participates in activities that we direct in this office. Becoming the national delegate exemplifies the work he’s done here, but on a broader scale.”

She added, “What he’s doing is important because the number of individuals historically underrepresented in medicine still is very small. For instance, last year, medical schools admitted almost 18,900 individuals on a national level. Of that number, only 472 were black men.”

“His being elected to this national leadership position is a reflection of his talents and desire to make a difference,” agreed Dr. Katz.

“I think it’s huge for patients to see people who look like them, but I also think it’s important for patients to trust that the person who is taking care of them really cares about their issues,” said Mr. Essien.

He didn’t need to look too far for a role model. His own father is a physician with a practice in New Rochelle. “He has a strong minority population that he works with there. Growing up, I always said, ‘I’ll never be a doctor.’ I hated the fact that he was never home.”

He continued, “My father came from Nigeria, so when he came to the States he had to start his residency all over. Those first five or six years were pretty tough. He was selling newspapers while also going to the hospital for crazy 80-hour-a-week shifts.”

Spending a summer working in his father’s office changed Mr. Essien’s mind about medicine. “The experience that specifically hit me was a 14-year old who came in and said, ‘I need to see Dr. Essien. I want to show him my report card. I got straight As.’ I admired that he was able to help people physically and still play that mentor role, forging strong relationships with his patients.

“That summer all the patients were asking me, ‘When are you going be the doctor?’ And it was then that I could see myself pursuing medicine as a career.”

In his new position Mr. Essien plans to spread the word about Einstein. “I definitely hope it will get Einstein some exposure,” he said. “With this position I have the opportunity to be more involved with the AAMC’s national conference next year, which will be in San Francisco. The main task of the National Community and Diversity Delegate is to plan the minority schools' and career fair. I’m hoping to get our name out there at the career fair next year.”

Posted on: Wednesday, February 01, 2012