Created in 2011, the Aetna Foundation/NMF Healthcare Leadership Program helps to address the severe national shortage of physician-leaders who are committed to improving the health of underserved communities. The program provides $5,000 scholarships to second- and third-year medical students from underrepresented minority groups who have a commitment to work with patients in medically underserved communities.
Meet the outstanding medical students who have so far received medical school scholarships through the Aetna Foundation/NMF Healthcare Leadership Program.
Adys Mendizabal, a medical student at Temple University School of Medicine, is also pursuing a master’s in urban bioethics degree. She has served as a teaching assistant for the Health Careers Motivation Program, which prepares and inspires minority students to apply to medical school. She continues to volunteer at Puentes de Salud, a clinic that cares for the Hispanic community in South Philadelphia.
Cindy Parra, a medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College, helped to start the Teen Clinic at San Ysidro Health Center. As co-president of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and Students for Equal Opportunity in Medicine at Weill Cornell, she continues to promote diversity in medicine by mentoring high school students and organizing conferences and other networking opportunities for high school, pre-med, and medical students.
David Paul, who studies medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, is also pursuing an MS in neurobiology and anatomy. He co-founded the Minority Male Leadership Association in response to the 9% four-year high school graduation rate of minority males in Rochester, and co-organized Hoops for Health, an after-school program that teaches underrepresented Rochester students the importance of healthy lifestyle choices through basketball.
Jacqueline Romero, a medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College who successfully integrates medical research, volunteered with Motivating Action through Community Health Outreach as a nutrition teacher in a Harlem elementary school. She also was co-coordinator of Medical Students for Public Health, organizing events to foster medical student interest in public health and developing resources to connect medical students with public health opportunities.
Andre Bryan studies medicine at New York University School of Medicine. As an NYU undergraduate he organized Hoops For Hope, a basketball tournament that donated financial assistance to an incoming student. With four classmates in medical school he founded Gifts of Time, a community service organization for pediatric patients in Tisch Hospital, which earned him the President’s Service Award.
Nicole Ilonzo, a medical student at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, has shown her passion for the underserved through her involvement in the Black and Latino Students Organization and Physicians for Human Rights. As an undergraduate, she founded PuzzlePiece, an illustrated collection of short stories for children with chronic conditions that disproportionally affect minority children.
Edwin Kulubya studies medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. As an undergraduate at Columbia University in New York City, he mentored young men in the Harlem community, and reviewed a Mt. Sinai Hospital longitudinal study of adolescents with Attention Disorder in at-risk populations. At the Keck School, he takes time to teach health science to elementary school students in Los Angeles.
Miriam Lassiter is a medical student at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She has tutored and counseled high school students who expressed interest in future health-related careers, and spent a summer volunteering at CVS Pharmacy Health Fairs. With African Americans in Medicine, she has organized blood drives, leukemia and AIDS walks, and planned healthcare events in local communities.
Anthony Melendez, a medical student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has served as Class of 2015 Representative, co-president of Students for Equal Opportunity in Medicine, and sits on the Student Council Executive Steering Committee. He studied at the Summer Institute of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and currently leads a program that aims to improve care at Boriken Health Center in East Harlem.
Amarachi Okoro is a medical student at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. As part of the school’s PRIME program, she has committed herself to helping the medically underserved, and has organized community events surrounding diabetes and metabolic health in South Los Angeles. She also conducts research with the Clinical Translational Science Institute at UCLA on strengthening the partnership between academic and community collaborators in the city.
Frinny Polanco studies medicine at New York Medical College. As president of the college’s Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and a NYMC student senator, she has advocated for the recruitment and retention of minority students at the college. As a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Fellow, she worked on legislation aiming to enhance health care services through the Minority Health Improvement & Health Disparity Elimination Act.
Carmen E. Cancino, attended medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, received an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Award and created a Young Doctors Club for middle school students in a predominantly African-American and low-income neighborhood.
Crystal Castañeda, a medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College, has served as an elected official for several student organizations and volunteered at Weill Cornell Community Clinic in New York. As an undergraduate majoring in behavioral neuroscience at Yale University, she was active in several organizations, such as the Minorities in Medicine Movement Group, and was co-founder of the High School Liaison program. She also served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer at the Christ House Medical Shelter in Washington, D.C.
Monique Chambers, who attended the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine initiated the first elective course at UC Davis designed specifically to explore the social determinants of minority health outcomes. She served as co-director of the Imani Clinic, a student-run free clinic providing primary care to uninsured people in a historically African-American neighborhood.
Magdala Chery studies medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow she created an initiative to promote healthy body images and reduce dating violence among at-risk adolescent girls. She holds a BS in biology from Montclair State University and a MBS from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Teresa Gomez, an MD/MPH dual degree student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, organized a global health trip to rural Oaxaca, Mexico, and directed six medical students in a midwife training workshop to address the region’s high maternal mortality rates. She is chapter co-president of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), volunteering at community health fairs to provide basic health screenings.
Cassandra M. List, a medical student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, served as co-president of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and as a Spanish interpreter in community health clinics.
Shamsideen O. Musa, attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and developed a weekend science curriculum taught by Pritzker medical students to urban teenagers interested in science and medicine. He also founded a student program, Big Sibs-Little Sibs, in which medical students from minority backgrounds mentor minority undergraduates interested in medicine.
John Nixon, a medical student at Rush University Medical College, served as a patient advocate and volunteered with Venice Family Clinic during his undergraduate years at UCLA. As co-chair of student groups and a mentorship program partnership between Rush and Instituto Health Science Career Academy, he has coordinated programs aimed at outreach and health education to empower at-risk youth.
Chinonyerem Okoro, a medical student at the New York University School of Medicine, served as co-president of the Black and Latino Association and was an active member of the Hepatitis Project. He has served as vice president of the MiniMeds program, which aims to introduce youth to a potential career in medicine. Born and raised in Nigeria, he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Maryland.
Veronica Ramirez, attended the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, created the Latino Health Awareness Project, a Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) initiative at Keck.
Jonathan Li Robles-Dunlap, a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, served as president and chief operating officer for the student-created nonprofit Global Health Volunteers, Inc. and was a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador.
Nicholas Kenji Taylor, a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, received an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship to work with the African-American male community in Philadelphia to raise awareness of hypertension. He has been involved as community service chair of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and co-chair of the Covenant House, a crisis center for displaced youth. He has also served as secretary and founding editor of the Penn Med Academy Health Chapter newsletter. He received his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Brown University.
Helio Zapata studies medicine at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. As an undergraduate he volunteered as a Spanish interpreter at a community health center and tutored in Spanish. At Pritzker, he serves as chapter president of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and the Students for Advancement of Medical Spanish. He also visits schools to encourage students to pursue science careers.
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