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The 2019 class of attendees to the pre-admission workshop for Native American students.

Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society recognizes Upstate with inclusion, diversity and equity award

Upstate Medical University’s College of Medicine has received a brand new award from the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society for excellence in inclusion, diversity and equity in medical education and patient care.

Upstate is one of only four medical schools nationwide to receive the award, which was announced in late 2019. The award recognizes medical schools (and their associated Alpha Omega Alpha chapter) that “demonstrate exemplary leadership, innovation and engagement in fostering an inclusive culture that transforms the ideals of inclusion, diversity and equity into successful programs that support medical students, house staff and faculty diversity in service to the community.”

In its application, Upstate detailed 17 programs, positions, events and student organizations that work to foster inclusion, diversity and equity on campus. Among those cited are:

  • Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) Buffalo Post-baccalaureate Program: Created to increase enrollment of academically qualified applicants from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine in New York state.
  • Medical Science Education Transition (MEDSET): A summer course to prepare incoming first-year medical students to prepare for the rigors of the curriculum.
  • Pre-Admission Workshop (PAW) with the Association of American Indian Physicians: The workshop helps native students from around the country with the admissions processes for medical and health professions programs.
  • Medical Scholars Programs: A series of pipeline programs to medical school for students who would benefit from additional coursework in applying to medical school – with a focus on students from underserved or rural areas.
  • CSTEP: A New York state grant-funded initiative supporting 150 under-represented or economically disadvantaged full-time students majoring in math, science, technology and health-related fields.

Alpha Omega Alpha said it “recognizes that inclusion of talented individuals from different backgrounds benefits patient care, population health, education and scientific discovery.”

Upstate’s Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Julie R. White, PhD, said she is especially proud of Upstate’s pipeline programs and the CSTEP program, as Upstate was the only medical school in the state to receive such a grant.

“We talk a lot about diversity and sometimes we forget about that inclusion piece, which is what allows folks to feel comfortable and safe while they are here,” White said. “We want to make sure that when students come here, they are in an environment in which they can thrive and I think that’s what this award is trying to recognize.”

Upstate’s nomination details a series of dialogue programs on campus, a retention mentor position created in 2016, the reinvigoration of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Student Inclusion as well as several student organizations including the Latino Medical Student Association and Women in Medicine & Sciences.

Upstate Vice President for Academic Affairs Lynn Cleary, MD, said student affairs, with continued support from Upstate leadership, has long approached its diversity and inclusion efforts with care and detail.

“It’s about not just coming to a place because you were recruited. It’s about being welcomed and feeling like it’s your home,” Cleary said. “It’s a lot more nuanced than just looking at numbers of who we recruit and who we graduate.

“Do people who come to Upstate feel like this is where they belong or do they feel like they aren’t quite accepted? I think feeling like you are included is important no matter your background or where you come from and I think student affairs has really focused on that.”

The other medical schools to receive the same award are: Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in Nashville, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Grand Forks. Dean Julie White will accept the award on behalf of Upstate at the Alpha Omega Alpha National Meeting in early April in Denver.

Caption: For the last two years, Upstate has sponsored a special pre-admissions workshop for Native American students to help increase the number of Native students pursuing education and careers in health care. The program was highlighted in Upstate’s nomination for the award from Alpha Omega Alpha. The 2019 class of attendees to the workshop is pictured here.