The hungry spirit
Date: June 15, 2012
In 2006, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine faced a reality: It lagged behind peer institutions in the recruitment of underrepresented minority students.
Upon learning this, the Board of Advisors, a small group that counsels the dean/CEO, pledged its own money to help fund 10 scholarships on the spot and two more the following year to reduce student debt when they graduate.
The board’s effort to increase the number of underrepresented minorities at the medical school has evolved into a broader, institutional effort to recruit student leaders who bring perspective and passion to health care challenges such as the issue of health disparities, the care for underserved populations and the development of a more culturally varied workforce.
Today, the program has yielded a diverse and talented pool of 21 Johns Hopkins Medicine Scholars, some of whom have graduated and are practicing physicians at leading medical institutions across the country.
When the economic downturn diminished donor funding and availability of scholarships in 2008, minority enrollment dropped. Johns Hopkins Medicine Dean/CEO Edward Miller dedicated nearly $1 million from the dean’s discretionary fund to reinvigorate and sustain the program.
Currently, two or three promising students are selected from each incoming class, based on what school of medicine Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Daniel Teraguchi calls an innovative criterion. In addition to financial need, the scholarship selection committee rates applicants on five categories: resiliency, duration of community service, local and global citizenship, opportunity to excel and intergroup collaborations.
In the selection process, Teraguchi looks for one trait he says can predictably identify scholars who will become successful leaders—the hungry spirit. “People who’ve overcome adversity in life often have the strongest drive,” he explains. “They have a unique ability to take the challenges that life presents them and turn those into opportunities.”
To show the impact of the scholarship—both on recipients and the patients and communities with whom they work—we sought out two former Johns Hopkins Medicine Scholars to learn where they are today.
Tosin Fatusin, Class of 2010
After personally witnessing the impact of health care disparities in the care of loved ones, Tosin Fatusin was inspired to become a doctor. The Johns Hopkins Medicine Scholars program helped make her longtime dream a reality.
“The scholarship allowed me to attend medical school without having to worry about the associated financial burden,” says Fatusin. “It gave me peace of mind so I could focus solely on my education and training.”
Now a second-year pediatric resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fatusin is passionate about increasing the number of minorities in medicine and finding ways to reduce health disparities, both in Baltimore and in developing countries. For example, as a medical student, Fatusin worked with some members of the school of public health to educate young adults in India about the risks of HIV. To help young minorities realize their potential, she mentored local high school and college students and organized the first annual Hopkins Opportunity for Pre-Med Education (HOPE) Day—a symposium to prepare minorities in the region to apply for medical school.
In addition to providing medical care to her pediatric patients, Fatusin also has a keen interest in their academic development. “I hope I am a role model for my patients, especially the older ones,” says Fatusin. “I tell them to dream big and set their goals high.”
Recently, Fatusin collaborated with fellow residents to create a departmental diversity council to foster cultural competency and attract diverse pediatric trainees and housestaff. The aspiring pediatric cardiologist ultimately wants to make specialty care more available in her native country of Nigeria someday.
Maria Esteli Garcia, Class of 2011
Maria Garcia, a first-year internal medicine resident at the University of California at San Francisco, is driven to improve health care access for the underserved, particularly for Latino immigrants.
An immigrant herself, Garcia grew up in Mexico before she relocated to the United States at the age of 7 with her parents. In college, Garcia conducted research on the health care barriers facing undocumented Guatemalan immigrants. As a medical student at Hopkins, she spent a year researching quality improvement in HIV clinics in Tanzania as part of a program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
Garcia, who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, says she’s struck by how grateful patients are to be able to communicate in their native language. “It’s really important,” she notes, “that our workforce be more representative of the population we serve.”
For Garcia, increasing diversity in the medical field is a personal imperative. During medical school she cofounded Programa Salud (now called Bienestar), a coalition of Hopkins medical, public health and nursing students who encourage Latino students to enroll in health care tracks in college and earlier. For her efforts, the Association of American Medical Colleges selected her for the Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarship.
Garcia says the scholarship has allowed her to pursue a career in primary care without worrying about how she’ll pay back debt. “The amount of debt people have coming out of medical school is pushing them away from primary care careers and making [them] more prone to choose specialties,” she says.
Although her career goals are still taking shape, Garcia says she’s planning to continue her focus on international medicine and is particularly interested in working with individuals living with HIV and AIDS.
Efforts to increase diversity extend beyond borders
Because most non-citizens aren’t eligible to receive financial aid from the U.S. government, cost is a common barrier for many international students who apply to medical school in the states. Thanks to a new scholarship program, that soon will change at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The program, funded by Johns Hopkins Medicine International, will aid students who are accepted at the school of medicine on the same basis as their U.S. peers but who are unable to acquire any financial aid for their studies.
International students attending Hopkins, as well as those who will enroll in the Hopkins medical program in the fall of 2012, may be eligible to tap into the newly established fund of $80,000, an amount that will be increased by $80,000 each year, reaching a maximum of $320,000 in 2016.