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 African American 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 African American 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 Orleans in July 2023.

Spearheading the scholars’ program is IMF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Mikhael, who leads the IMF’s M-Power Project. As brand-new 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 Inaugural 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 50 applicants for the program, 12 individuals were chosen by the Selection Committee. The student-mentor pairs are as follows:

Dominique Sanders
University of Illinois
Chicago, IL

Monique Hartley-Brown, MD, MMSc
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Julia Kirkland
Kansas City University
Kansas City, MO

Racquel Innis-Shelton, MD
Alabama Oncology
Birmingham, AL

Theodora C. Abah
Morehouse School of Medicine
Atlanta, GA

Ajay K. Nooka, MD, MPH, FACP
Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University
Birmingham, AL

Yaw Adu
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine
Lubbock, TX

Sikander Ailwadhi, MD
Mayo Clinic
Jacksonville, FL

Amani Tafadzwa
Kansas City University
Kansas City, MO

Brandon J. Blue, MD
Moffitt Cancer Center
Tampa, FL

Oluwadamilola “Dami” Omojola
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL

Ben Derman, MD
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Justin Thomas
Rush Medical College
Chicago, IL

Craig Emmitt Cole, MD
Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint
Flint, MI

Semaje Testamark
Emory University
Atlanta, GA

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

Chandler Gillard
Howard University
Washington, D.C.

Sandrine Niyongere, MD
University of Maryland
College Park, MD

Nader Shayegh
Howard University
Washington, D.C.

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

Jan Powell
Rush Medical College
Chicago, IL

Jeffrey Zonder, MD
Karmanos Cancer Center
Detroit, MI

Irene Ammie Cooper
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Philadelphia, PA

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 July 2023.

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 August 2023. 

Made possible with support from Janssen and Pfizer

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