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The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) Launches Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program

STUDIO CITY, Calif., April 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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.

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 will be presented as posters at the Annual Meeting of the National Medical Association in New Orleans in July.

Spearheading the mentoring program is IMF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Mikhael, who leads the IMF’s M-Power Project—an initiative that partners with communities across the country with the core vision of improving the short- and long-term outcomes of African American patients with multiple myeloma.

On how the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program came about, Dr. Mikhael narrates: “The Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma is a brand-new program launched by the IMF in collaboration with the National Medical Association and the W. Montague Cobb Institute (their research arm). The program will pair medical students of minority backgrounds with myeloma experts to conduct research on health disparities for six months, then bring them all together to share their work and form a community of physicians dedicated to health equity in myeloma.”

“The objectives of the program include educating individuals from minority communities about multiple myeloma and engaging them at the earliest level of their training to gain a deeper understanding of the disease, so that they can be sensitive to its diagnosis, as well as disparities in myeloma and patient care. They can take this knowledge with them, whether they choose to become a myeloma expert, or to pursue a different discipline.”

“We believe that increasing workforce diversity among 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. Studies have noted that African American myeloma patients typically have better experiences when treated by someone from their own background.”

“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; furthermore, mortality is twice as high than in white Americans with myeloma,” Dr. Mikhael further adds.

Working alongside Dr. Mikhael is IMF Patient, President and CEO Yelak Biru, who had this to say about the program:

“While some organizations offer funding and research opportunities to minority researchers, we recognize that this alone is not enough. That's why we are partnering with the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute’s Cobb Scholars Program and the National Medical Association in creating the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program. We are confident that this program will make a significant impact on the future of myeloma care, and we look forward to seeing the valuable contributions of our mentees to the field and to patients in years to come.”

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:

  1. Dominique Sanders (University of Illinois—Chicago, IL) — Monique Hartley-Brown, MD, MMSc (Harvard Medical School—Boston, MA)
  2. Julia Kirkland (Kansas City University—Kansas City, MO)— Racquel Innis-Shelton, MD (Alabama Oncology—Birmingham, AL)
  3. Theodora C. Abah (Morehouse School of Medicine—Atlanta, GA)— Ajay K. Nooka, MD, MPH, FACP (Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University—Atlanta, GA)
  4. Yaw Adu (Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine—Lubbock, TX)— Sikander Ailwadhi, MD (Mayo Clinic—Jacksonville, FL)
  5. Amani Tafadzwa (Kansas City University—Kansas City, MO)— Brandon J. Blue, MD (Moffitt Cancer Center—Tampa, FL)
  6. Omojola Oluwadamilola (Northwestern University—Evanston, IL)— Ben Derman, MD (University of Chicago—Chicago, IL)
  7. Justin Thomas (Rush Medical College—Chicago, IL)—Craig Emmitt Cole, MD (Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint—Flint, MI)
  8. Semaje Testamark (Emory University—Atlanta, GA)—Manisha Bhutani, MD (Atrium Health Levine Cancer Center—Charlotte, NC)
  9. Chandler Gillard (Howard University—Washington, D.C.)— Sandrine Niyongere, MD (University of Maryland—College Park, MD)
  10. Nader Shayegh (Howard University—Washington, D.C.)— Tondre Buck, MD (Gibbs Cancer Center and Research Institute—Spartansburg, SC)
  11. Jan Powell (Rush Medical College—Chicago, IL)— Jeffrey Zonder, MD (Karmanos Cancer Center—Detroit, MI)
  12. Irene Ammie Cooper (Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine—Philadelphia, PA)— Saad Usmani, MD, MBA, FACP (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center—New York, NY)

A Media Snippet accompanying this announcement is available by clicking on the image or link below:

The IMF is collaborating with the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute in planning the poster sessions during the Annual Meeting of the National Medical Association (NMA) in July 2023, where each student will have a chance to present his or her work. This will be followed by a networking reception to bring together members of the IMF, the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), W. Montague Cobb /NMA Institute, and the NMA.

To learn more about the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring Program, visit the IMF M-Power website.

Partnering with cities across the U.S., the International Myeloma Foundation’s (IMF) M-Power Project aims to turn the core vision of the IMF Diversity Initiative into a reality: improving the short- and long-term outcomes of African American patients with multiple myeloma. By raising myeloma awareness and empowering healthcare professionals, community leaders, neighborhoods, and families, the M-Power Project aims to break down barriers for the African American myeloma community.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells — white blood cells that make antibodies. A cancerous or malignant plasma cell is called a myeloma cell. Myeloma is called “multiple” because there are frequently multiple patches or areas in bone where it grows. It often involves damage to bone and kidneys. Multiple myeloma is still incurable, but great progress has been made in terms of survival over the last two decades. The disease is twice as common and is diagnosed at a younger age in African Americans than white Americans. The most common presenting symptoms include fatigue and bone pain.

Founded in 1990, the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) is the first and largest global foundation focusing specifically on multiple myeloma. The Foundation's reach extends to more than 525,000 members in 140 countries worldwide. The IMF is dedicated to improving the quality of life of myeloma patients while working toward prevention and a cure by focusing on four key areas: research, education, support, and advocacy. The IMF has conducted more than 250 educational seminars worldwide, maintains a world-renowned InfoLine, and in 2001, established the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG), a collaborative research initiative focused on improving myeloma treatment options for patients. In 2012, the IMF launched the Black Swan Research Initiative®, a groundbreaking research project aimed at curing myeloma. The IMF can be reached at (800) 452-CURE (2873). The global website is

Follow the IMF on:
Twitter: @IMFmyeloma
Instagram: @imfmyeloma
Facebook: @myeloma
LinkedIn: International Myeloma Foundation

Media Contacts:

Peter Anton

Jason London

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