UHF's Distinguished Community Service Award recognizes volunteer leadership of a specific project or initiative that significantly improves health care in New York City. In 2019, we saluted Lynne Holden, MD, President and Co-founder, Mentoring in Medicine, Inc., for inspiring and equipping disadvantaged and low-income students to become health care professionals.

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When Alexa Mieses was an undergraduate at City College of New York, she knew she wanted to be a doctor but didn’t know how to go about it—neither of her parents had even attended college. That changed when the Queens native was invited to a barbecue at Dr. Lynne Holden’s house in New Rochelle, along with other undergraduates, medical students, and practicing physicians. It was here that Alexa learned about Mentoring in Medicine (MIM), a nonprofit that works to inspire and empower low-income students to become health care and science professionals.

 

With MIM’s help, Alexa gained physician-mentors, landed a hard-to-get spot in a clinical emergency department shadowing program, and was accepted into Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (she graduated in 2016 with a joint MD/MPH degree). She is now Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without Dr. Holden and Mentoring in Medicine,” she says.

Dr. Mieses is one of the thousands of minority health care professionals who can trace their success to a helping hand from MIM, which was co-founded in 2007 by Dr. Lynne Holden.

An emergency department physician at Montefiore Health System and professor of emergency medicine and former co-chair of the admissions committee at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Lynne can attest to the value of mentors. She decided at age 6 to be a doctor, inspired by her TV idol Marcus Welby, MD, whom she considers her first “mentor.” But she didn’t know what it would take until she was 13 and an aunt who was a nurse took her to meet Dr. Muriel Petioni, known as “the mother of medicine in Harlem.” It was the start of a lifelong mentoring relationship that lasted until Dr. Petioni’s death in 2012 at the age of 96.

With Dr. Petioni’s help, Lynne was able to attend six different summer programs at medical institutions, valuable preparation for eventually earning her medical degree from Temple University. But she knows all too well how unusual she is. Although she has been practicing for 24 years, Lynne is one of only five black female physicians who are full professors in emergency medicine in the U.S. A 2015 study found that only 3.8 percent of U.S. physicians were black, and 5.2 percent were Hispanic. The pipeline isn’t much better—between 2013 and 2016, only 7.5 percent of new medical students were black; 9.8 percent were Hispanic. 

Lynne decided to address this inequity, and pay her own experience forward, by creating MIM. She hopes that increasing the numbers of doctors and other health care professionals of color will not only help disadvantaged children but help narrow the yawning racial health disparities in the U.S. “Studies have shown that patients are more willing to listen to health care providers from the same culture,” she says.

Since its founding, MIM has recruited more than 1,500 health and science professionals, as well as college and medical school students, to volunteer to help with academic enrichment, leadership development, community engagement, and mentoring. Its programs and events have reached more than 52,000 students, parents, and educators.

The organization starts its outreach early, offering after-school programs and summer camps to kids as early as second grade and through high school. It also hosts a full-day Health and Science Expo in Harlem and seven other cities. Some 2,000 students, parents, and educators attend the Harlem event each year, where they learn about a range of health care professions and what it takes to pursue one.

At the college level, MIM has an intensive boot camp for disadvantaged students interested in medical school that prepares them for the MCAT and offers leadership development and clinical exposure. College and graduate students have an opportunity to shadow professionals in the emergency departments of five New York City hospitals.

More than 500 MIM students have enrolled in health professional school, with 289 in medical school and hundreds of others pursuing health care careers. MIM has also expanded beyond its Bronx home to 16 cities around the country, from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage, Alaska.

For her passionate and tireless leadership to provide opportunities to disadvantaged students and create a more diverse and equitable health care workforce, United Hospital Fund is proud to present Dr. Lynne Holden with the 2019 Distinguished Community Service Award.