By Dr. Jonathan Daniels
Twenty-five years ago I got the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to go to medical school and become a doctor. I have been fortunate enough to serve the Buffalo community I grew up in ever since.
Like many young African-American men back then, I lacked the resources, the guidance and the preparation it took to get into medical school.
Today there are as few African-American men in medical schools across the country as there were 25 – and even 50 – years ago. We need to do more to help more young black men and women fulfill that dream.
We also need more African-American doctors because there is a significant gap between the numbers of African-American patients and African-American physicians. We know from years of research that patients are healthier when they have doctors who look like them and are from similar backgrounds.
Like many current students, I was the first in my immediate family to graduate from college. My family paved the path, but I was on my own when it came to financing college, which led to some misguided choices. By the middle of my sophomore year, I had to leave the private school I attended and figure out a way to make some money to repay my loans.
I joined the United States Army Reserve 365th Evacuation Hospital as a combat medic and served proudly during Operation Desert Storm. After my services, I returned to Buffalo to complete my undergraduate degree.
Today, I know there are many nontraditional paths – like mine – to medical school. I also know that too many students continue to be discouraged from pursuing careers in medicine for various reasons.
Despite advice to the contrary, I applied to medical school. As a Buffalo native, the medical school at UB, now known as the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, was an obvious choice.
My application was wait-listed. And that’s when the real opportunity came.
In 1991, the Associated Medical Schools of New York, a nonprofit that works with all the medical schools in the state, launched a post-baccalaureate program at UB. The program, which has been funded by New York State for almost two decades, guarantees medical school admission to everyone who successfully completes the program. The goal is to diversify the physician workforce.
New York State needs to invest more in programs like the AMSNY post-bac program and other programs that create a pipeline to medical school for more young African-Americans, Latino and Latina students and others underrepresented in medicine.
Dr. Jonathan Daniels is a pediatrician at Main Pediatrics and associate director of admissions, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.