Physicians Diversity Scholars program gives medical students a mentor

Black History Month

Dr. Isaiah Rolle is what many would call an American success story. Born and raised in Harlem, NY by a single mom, now living out his dream as a first-year resident at Riverside Methodist Hospital.

“I had a mother who believed in me and I continued to just go along with what she believed and my own beliefs as well,” said Rolle. “I’m a rebel and a challenger and so I will never quit in life and anything I want to do and although there were challenges and ways I couldn’t see that I wanted to go, I knew that was going to be the goal. “

Getting to this point takes more than hard work. Having a mentor in the medical field can play a huge role.

“For me, it means everything. I come from a background with no medicine, no physicians at all. Having a mentor for life is one thing but going to medicine is a whole other situation because it’s more competitive and there are high stakes involved so having a mentor is important to me because there are things I just really can’t figure out on my own,” said Rolle.

Mentorship is a cornerstone of the Physicians Diversity Scholars program, which was started in 2008 by Ohio Health. Dr. Nanette Lacuesta is the program director.

“We noticed that there was a discrepancy between the diversity of our physician community and the patients that we serve so the Physician Diversity Scholars Program was born,” said Lacuesta.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13 percent of the population is Black and 18 percent is of Hispanic and Latino ethnicity. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2017, only 8 percent of surgeons are Black and just 7 percent were of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. It’s an alarming statistic and one that is being addressed in a big way right here in Central Ohio.

Rolle was paired with Dr. B.J. Hicks, a neurologist with OhioHealth. Unlike Rolle, Hicks was able to look up to his own father as someone who worked in the medical field.

“The life of a black physician I strongly feel is every bit as important as checking reflexes and using the stethoscope should be mentorship.,” said Hicks. “We need to understand that we have to foster an interest in this field.”

“Not only having a mentor but having one that looks like me as a mentor is important because there are not many of us in medicine,’ said Rolle. “So to see someone who has done it is inspiring to me. It also makes it believable and attainable that if he can do that, then I can as well. So having that mentor, it’s just something that makes me feel more confident in what I can do in my abilities to go forward and do the same thing.”

And the mentorship isn’t just about the science, but everything it takes to be a physician.

“To be able to sit down and have lunch with them and sit down and talk about life and how to navigate challenges and frustrations and microaggressions on the job that might happen has meant a lot to me,” said Rolle.

“I enjoy spending time with him. And that makes it easy,” said Hicks about mentoring Rolle. “It’s really easy to mentor someone that you like to spend time with and it’s really easy to let them in on the secret of matriculating through medical school and through residency. We just have to be proactive as a medical community to ensure that we don’t see any more sliding. The world is more diverse. Our country especially. Central Ohio especially so we really want our medical staff to reflect that.”

Studies have shown as well that patients who are the same ethnicity as the doctors that see them tend to be more forthright about their physical ailments than when with doctors of different ethnicity, making it even more important to have a diverse array of physicians around the country.

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