There is an increase in the number of enrolled students from underrepresented groups attending UB's medical school this semester. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley had a chance to meet with some of those students to discuss the upswing.
The students gathered at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in downtown Buffalo, ready to talk about how excited they are to be working toward a medical career. 33 of the 180 students enrolled in the class of 2022 are from underrepresented groups. That number nearly doubled for this year. 20 of the 33 are African-American students.
"There's a lot of diversity within our class – a lot of students that look like myself,” remarked Shawn Gibson of Queens. He's a first year medical student and completed his undergraduate work at UB.
Gibson tells WBFO News he likes the program and mentors. But he said having other students from similar backgrounds is also important to his success.
“That’s pretty much why a lot of us are doing well so far. It feels great having someone that you could connect on so many different aspects,” Gibson explained.
“Do you get treated differently?” Buckley asked. “To be honest yes – it’s definitely difficult at times. I could see my demeanor and every day demeanor you know where it’s not a normal medical school student face, but that’s just the challenges of being a black men in medicine,” responded Gibson.
"It's great having a support system here and I probably wouldn’t be as comfortable here as I would at any other schools,” said Neneyo Mate-Kole of Long Island, first year med student. Mate-Kole also attended UB for his undergraduate studies.
Mate-Kole tells us having other students of color by his side makes a big difference in his studies.
“What is it like, as a man of color, to come into a med school? Do you feel support and do you feel it is diverse enough?” Buckley questioned.
“Oh absolutely – especially this med school where last year there weren’t as many, but this year we came in with a good bunch. I was familiar with a lot of the people of color because of our time in Buffalo. Most of us took classes in Buffalo,” replied Mate-Kole. “We all have a collectiveness. We all stick together if we need help.”
“And it's no shame for me to say I need there to be more black and brown students,” declared Karole Collier of Philadelphia is a second year UB med student.
Nationwide the number of African-American doctors has remained low. SUNY Albany Center for Health Workforce Studies says in the state just 12-percent of physicians are from African American or Hispanic/Latino backgrounds, yet the population of those groups is more than 30-percent from those groups.
“Because we have communities that look like that and it would be the same thing if I said I speak French and you speak Spanish and we were walking into an English speaking community – we would say ‘boy we need more people to speak English’ – it would be the same idea and it is that kind of push that I am really looking forward to – is that I’m very confident in all my classmates. I’m even more confident that my classmates are starting to look my community,” Collier noted.
Last year Collier launched an initiative called Second Look working to represent the diverse populations at UB's med school. She also serves as the president of local chapter of Student National Medical Association. The group works to support current and future underrepresented minority medical students.
“Long time coming – long way to go. I do not want there to be a false advertiser that we are there yet. We have many, many steps to climb, but the first step is always a good step,” Collier said.