The American Academy of Ophthalmology and National Medical Fellowships today announced the recipients of a new scholarship that supports the mission of both organizations to provide more opportunities to underrepresented minority students pursuing medical careers.
The inaugural National Medical Fellowships Scholarship in Ophthalmology is awarded to Ja’Qulane Scales of Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC, and Joshua Chazaro of Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill.
Both are second-year medical students participating in the Academy’s Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring program, which was designed to attract underrepresented minorities to a career in ophthalmology and help prepare them to be competitive residency applicants.
National Medical Fellowships provides scholarships and support for underrepresented minority students in medicine and the health professions.
Since 1946, the organization has awarded more than 30,000 scholarships totaling $40 million.
In 2018, the organization generously offered to provide two $5,000 scholarships to students.
Recipients are selected based on leadership qualities demonstrated through their research, academic performance and extracurricular activities.
Funding for the scholarships are provided through a grant from Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation.
Both Scales and Chazaro are pursuing a medical education, not only to pave the way for minority students interested in becoming ophthalmologists, but also to provide better care to patients in underserved communities.
There is a critical need to diversify the medical workforce.
African Americans make up 12.8 percent of the general population, but only 2 percent of ophthalmologists.
Hispanics and Latinos make up 16.3 percent of the population, but only 4.6 percent of ophthalmologists.
Overall, the shortage of healthcare professionals in communities of color is estimated to be between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians by 2025.
Simply documenting the lack of diversity in the medical profession isn’t enough, action is required to create a change that can improve health outcomes.
That’s why the Academy and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology established the Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring program.
It pairs juniors and seniors in college and first- and second-year medical students with seasoned ophthalmologists dedicated to supporting their career development and helping them become competitive residency applicants.
Scales and Chazaro are among the first 22 students selected by the Academy to join the program for its inaugural year.
Scales is a native of Little Rock, Ark. and a member of the United States Navy. As a first-generation college graduate, she says the path to becoming an ophthalmologist can be challenging.
She’s grateful for the opportunity to be mentored by an established ophthalmologist. She intends to practice ophthalmology in an underserved community, working to close the gap in health disparities.
Chazaro is a native of Upland, Calif. Having witnessed the discomfort marginalized populations experience in a medical setting, he is committed to becoming a physician dedicated to delivering a better care experience.
“This scholarship will give me the opportunity to expand my goals as a medical student and further achieve my dreams,” Chazaro said.
“National Medical Fellowships (NMF) is thrilled to have collaborated with the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring program and grateful to the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation for its support,” said president and CEO Esther R. Dyer, MLS, DLS.
“Through this scholarship, NMF can support the next generation of diverse leaders in the highly competitive field of ophthalmology.”
Past president of the Academy, Keith D. Carter, M.D., FACS, is also a past recipient of an NMF scholarship.
“I have always been grateful for this generosity,” Dr. Carter said. “The scholarship was very important and inspirational because of the effort of an organization offering to assist me with my training expense.”
Visit the Academy at aao.org/minority-mentoring-students to learn more about the Minority Ophthalmology Mentoring program. Visit National Medical Fellowships online at nmfonline.org.