NEW ORLEANS, November 14, 2022 – According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 8% of medical students and 5% of physicians are Black and African American. In an effort to address this disparity, the American Heart Association, the leading public health nonprofit organization dedicated to building a world of longer, healthier lives for all, has announced that four local students from two academic institutions have been selected to participate in its Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Scholars program.

Local awardees are:

Derrick Webb- Senior Biology/Pre-Med major; Dillard University,  native of Montgomery, AL. Williams-Franklin Foundation Scholar, Louis Stokes HBCU Scholar, and Pre-Health Scholar. President of Minority Association of Pre-Med Student, Student ambassador of United Negro College Fund, Emerging Scholars STEM Academy, and TRiO Student support services tutor. Derrick ultimately hopes to combine care and empathy with research to advocate for health equity.

Mentor: Kevin Zwezdaryk, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Tulane University School of Medicine

Kyla Mayo- Junior Biology/Pre-Med major; Dillard University, native of Vacherie, LA. Dean’s Lists Scholar, Academic and Pre-Health Honor Society, Williams Franklin Foundation Scholarship. Residential Assistant, Pre-Health Organization, Fundraising/Financial Budgeting Chair of the Minority Association of Pre-Med Students. Kyla believes that good initiatives like the HBCU Scholars Program are key components in helping to improve the health of people within the community.

Mentor: Prasad V.G. Katakam, MD, PhD, FCVS, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Tulane University School of Medicine

Brayanna Jones- Junior Biology major; Xavier University native of New Roads, LA. National Society of Leadership and Success Inductee, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society inductee, academic Valedictorian scholarship recipient and Dean’s list scholar. Student Government Association Junior class council Vice President, Black Women’s Humanity Council Event coordinator, Resident Assistant, and Vanguard Tour Student ambassador. Brayanna says she strives to create a more diverse healthcare system for the inclusion of all communities.

Mentor: Lydia Bazzano, MD, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Medical Director of the Bogalusa Heart Study, Tulane University School of Medicine

Mallory Johnson- Sophomore biology major; Xavier University,  native of Houston, TX. Academic Dean’s List scholar, Top Teens of America Scholarship recipient. Top Teens of America Scholarship recipient, Women in Science and Engineering Committee, Top Teens of America Chapter President, and Theola Booker Music Camp Counselor. Mallory hopes to inspire other black women to believe in themselves and provide motivation to overcome barriers.

Mentor: Prasad V.G. Katakam, MD, PhD, FCVS, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Tulane University School of Medicine.

The Association’s HBCU Scholars are enrolled in biomedical or other health sciences programs at their respective institutions. Through their participation in the Scholars program, they will study how the social determinants of health and other health disparities impact underserved communities. They will also participate in scientific research projects and present their findings at the end of the program.

“Since 2015, the American Heart Association HBCU Scholars program has helped change the trajectory of dozens of under-represented students in science and medicine by fostering their talent, preparedness and growth to pursue careers in biomedical science” said American Heart Association volunteer president Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, who is the Walter A. Haas-Lucie Stern endowed chair in Cardiology, professor of medicine and admissions dean at University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine. “As champions for health care quality and access for all, the American Heart Association is committed to building the pipeline of diverse persons in medicine and empowering the next generation of research and health care professionals.”

The program is funded by a grant provided by the Quest Diagnostics Foundation, which also supports the American Heart Association’s Hispanic Serving Institutes (HSI) Scholars Program.

“This program plays an essential role in advancing health equity within healthcare practitioners and technical occupations including medicine, biotechnology, life sciences, engineering, research, public health and non-profit professionals,,” said Coretta LaGarde, Executive Director, American Heart Association, Greater New Orleans. “We are proud  of this next cohort of  AHA Scholars at HBCU with the American Heart Association, Greater New Orleans, as it provides them with enriching academic and networking experiences to help them excel in their career paths.”

Accepted students are selected based on their GPA, completion of a formal application, which includes an essay, and an official recommendation from their school. During the program, scholars are paired with a mentor who works in health care or is currently performing their own relevant scientific research. They will also participate in a leadership development program and are awarded a financial stipend to help cover education-related expenses. More about the American Heart Association’s HBCU Scholars initiative can be found here.

Clinical research studies published in the American Journal of Public Health suggest that patients of color may experience uncomfortable interactions and communication barriers with their health care providers due to lack of diversity and face implicit and unconscious bias from physicians and other health care professionals. These barriers, in turn, can lower patients’ trust in the overall health care system and as a result, these patients may not complete prescribed treatments or follow-up on recommended care. Addressing this issue is a vital component of the HBCU Scholars program.

Each year, the Association seeks applications from sophomores, juniors and seniors from historically underrepresented communities who are currently enrolled in an HBCU and are interested in pursuing a professional degree in biomedical and health sciences.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   

For Media Inquiries:

Mary Fein,

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and