What Is the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program?

The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) has partnered with the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute’s Cobb Scholars Program to develop a mentoring program for minority medical school students.

    • Pairing passion with expertise, the program’s mission is to mentor the next generation of myeloma experts by:
    • Increasing the pool of minority physicians dedicated to myeloma health equity
    • Raising myeloma awareness among medical students, with a focus on its impact on African Americans
    • Supporting innovative health disparities projects in myeloma
    • Providing mentorship with myeloma experts
    • Creating a supportive community of mentors and mentees

Twelve students, several of whom are from Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU), have been paired with 12 myeloma experts who are dedicated to health equity. Together, they are conducting 12 projects in health disparities in myeloma. These projects will be presented as posters at the Annual Meeting of the National Medical Association, which will take place in New York City in August 2024.

Spearheading the scholars’ program is IMF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Mikhael, who leads the IMF’s M-Power Project. The 2nd annual program launched by the IMF in collaboration with the National Medical Association and the W. Montague Cobb Institute (their research arm), the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program pairs medical students of minority backgrounds with myeloma experts to conduct research on health disparities for six months.

Its objectives include:

  • Educating individuals from minority communities about multiple myeloma,
  • Engaging those communities at the earliest level of their training to gain a deeper understanding of the disease, and
  • Improving sensitivities toward diagnosis, as well as disparities in myeloma and patient care.

The hope is these medical students can take this knowledge with them, whether they choose to become a myeloma expert, or to pursue a different discipline.

“We believe that increasing the workforce of those involved in the care of myeloma patients is part of the solution when it comes to long-term health equity in multiple myeloma. Right now, only less than 6 percent of physicians in the U.S. are of African American descent. Our goal is to increase that number by providing learning opportunities to those who are willing to pursue a career dedicated to multiple myeloma. It is a known fact that this type of blood cancer is twice as common among African Americans.”

Joseph Mikhael, MD

Chief Medical Officer, International Myeloma Foundation

Our Partners:

Randall C. Morgan, Jr., MD, MBA
President & CEO
Cobb/NMA Health Institute

Edith Peterson Mitchell, MD
116th President National Medical Association
Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Thomas Jefferson University

Who Are the Program’s 2024 Mentees and Mentors?

These passionate students along with their dedicated mentors are creating a brighter future for health equity in myeloma care.  Each medical student is already working one-on-one and closely with a mentor, gaining skills in research while seeking to provide solutions to the vast health disparity in myeloma.

From over 30 applicants for the program, 12 individuals were chosen by the Selection Committee. The student-mentor pairs are as follows:

Saron Araya
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Philadelphia, PA

Cesar Rodriguez, MD
The Tisch Cancer Institute Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, NY

Bethelehem Gebre
Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine
Spokane, WA

Ajay K. Nooka, MD, MPH, FACP
Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University
Atlanta, GA

Erneisha Brown
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine
Lubbock, TX

Krina Patel, MD, MSc
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, TX

Tyra Grischke
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indiana, IN

Ben Derman, MD
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Diandra Adu-Kyei
Meharry Medical College
Nashville, TN

Tondre Buck, MD
Gibbs Cancer Center and Research Institute
Spartansburg, SC

Semegne Hiruy
Wake Forest University School of Medicine
Winston-Salem, NC

Manisha Bhutani, MD
Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute
Charlotte, NC

Brittany Grossi
Howard University College of Medicine
Washington, DC

Peter Voorhees, MD
Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute
Charlotte, NC

Ferdinand Anokwuru
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Los Angeles, CA

Monique Hartley-Brown, MD, MMSC
Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, MA

Ingrid Adaeze Okonta
University of Louisville School of Medicine
Louisville, KY

Joselle Cook, MD
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, MN

Jayla Mondy
The University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine
Jackson, MS

Sikander Ailwadhi, MD
Mayo Clinic
Jacksonville, FL

Divya Rath
Howard University College of Medicine
Washington, DC

Urvi Shah, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, NY

Yasmine Griffiths
Howard University College of Medicine
Washington, DC

Saad Usmani, MD, MBA, FACP
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, NY

“The Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program is really important because it introduces multiple myeloma to medical students early in their career, while pairing them with a diverse group of mentors who are experts in the field. Our hope is to influence these students to choose multiple myeloma as their field of expertise down the line, and that by bringing health disparities into their consciousness, mentees will become more aware of the unique presence of this disease among underserved myeloma patient communities”

Yelak Biru

IMF President and CEO, and 27-year myeloma survivor

What Are the Next Steps for the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Program?

Scholars will participate in a health disparities project focused on multiple myeloma with each student working closely one-on-one with a mentor myeloma expert. Mentees will meet regularly with their mentors to complete their respective projects.

The IMF will collaborate with the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute in planning the poster and networking sessions during the Annual Meeting of the National Medical Association (NMA) in August 2024.

Students and mentors will be attending the annual meeting to present their research, with a networking reception bringing together members of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), W. Montague Cobb /NMA Institute, and the NMA.

Participants are expected to complete the Post-Program Assessment by September 2024. 

Made possible with support from Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer

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