Medical school applicants and enrollees have reached an all time high. The message is out that as more Americans gain access to healthcare more doctors are desperately needed, but what's also needed is more diversity among those enrolling. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Bianca Ruiz was often in doctors' offices translating her grandmother's needs. Early on she noticed something: There was a cultural disconnect - none of the doctors they saw looked like them.
"It never crossed my mind at such an early age; hey I can become a doctor," Ruiz recalls.
It wasn't until her grandfather died of pancreatic cancer her freshman year of high school that Ruiz considered she could be a doctor.
But she is an exception. In 2014, more than 55 percent of newly enrolled med school students were white, 20 percent were Asian, just six percent of enrollees were black, four percent Latino and less than a percent were Native American.
The Associated Medical Schools of New York has been working since 1985 to diversify the state's 16 medical schools.
"Kids aren’t prepared to go to medical school they don’t have the science background," explains Associated Medical Schools of New York President & CEO Jo Wiederhorn.
Wiederhorn says they've also found through working with black and Latino med students that many times they were initially discouraged by counselors.
"These students were told sure you want to be a doctor but you can be a nurse, you can be a radiology technician, do you know how long it's going to take you to be a doctor. Do you know how much it's going to cost you to be a doctor?" Wiederhorn says.
Ruiz, a first generation college student, says she encountered some of that herself but mentorship through a med school pipeline program for high school students, and college programs like those funded by AMSNY, has given her confidence.
"So it was very important to have someone tell me, 'Ok, this is how you apply to college, this is how you fill out the FAFSA,'" Ruiz says.
Ruiz is still finishing up her pre-med requirements.
Wiederhorn encourages other students not to rule med school out.
"All of our city schools run programs, there are ways that if you want to become a physician there are ways for you to do it. People are more willing to got to see a physician who is culturally similar to themselves and that ultimately improves health outcomes," he says.