Across the nation’s medical schools, roughly two-thirds of medical students come from families within the top two quintiles of family income ($74,840 to $225,251). To help break down this barrier and ensure everyone has a fair shot at a career in medicine, regardless of their background, SUNY launched the Pre-Medical Opportunity Program in February of 2021.
The program is designed for SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students to support them on their path to getting into one of SUNY’s four medical universities: University at Buffalo, Downstate Health Sciences University, Stony Brook University, and Upstate Medical. Expanding upon the success of SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program, the Pre-Medical Opportunity Program provides participants with academic support, mentorship opportunities, clinical exposure, assistance with MCAT preparation, academic coaching, and workshops.
This summer, the first class of medical scholars—comprised of 23 students spanning across nine campuses—attended the Upstate Summer Residency Program at Upstate Medical. The program served as a launching point for each student to prepare for their coursework for the fall, as they begin their pre-med coursework, which serves as building blocks for all future academic pursuits.
To congratulate the students on this accomplishment, Chancellor Malatras recently met and chatted with each member of the inaugural class at Upstate Medical, listening to their future plans and learning more about their passions. Through their time in the Summer Residency Program, the students felt confident that they could chase their dreams and excel in medical school.
One such student who attended the event was 21-year-old Bri’Ajah’Anae Hymes’, whose dream is to be a geriatrics physical therapist and conduct cancer research. She is currently a student at SUNY ESF who majors in Biotechnology.
“I was born to be a healer,” Hymes said. “”I was born to help people.” Hymes shared that she wants to work with geriatric patients because of her special bond with her grandmother, who she has helped over the years.
“My grandma is my best friend. I was always a grandma’s girl. I’ve been taking care of her my whole life and I want to continue to do it to see her grow. It’s beautiful to give her life. Giving her life and taking care of her is something I want to do for everyone.”
Diversifying the Medical Field One Student at a Time
Hymes also noted the SUNY Pre-Med Opportunity Program is helping to diversify the medical field. She says she’s proud to play a role in that movement. “Being an African American female, we have a lot of self-doubts because people are always telling us we can’t,” Hymes said. “But I keep it positive. I don’t listen to the negativity I just keep going.”
After the first week in the Pre-Med Opportunity Program, Hymes feels as though she’s received more hands-on experience that in her other undergraduate courses. “Anatomy lab and lecture – amazing,” Hymes said. “I already took anatomy and I just learned so many more things. Clinical rotations and how to talk to patients. I was talking to an actual patient yesterday and it was amazing. We were actually touching hearts and lungs – I’m speechless.”
Hymes spoke to us about her experience with the program and her future goals in a recent interview:
A Bright Future Ahead for Students Seeking Medical Education Opportunities
While at Upstate Medical, Chancellor Malatras announced that SUNY will double its investment in the Pre-Med Opportunity Program to help even more EOP students attend SUNY’s medical schools. The goal? To expand the program for up to 50 students next spring.
With this expansion, SUNY will be able to provide more students with the opportunity to become a healthcare professional. In turn, we can expect to see a more diverse and representative population of doctors, nurses, and caretakers in medical settings—the greater the diversity seen in the medical profession, the better the care will be for our diverse patient populations, ultimately creating and healthier society.