BATON ROUGE, La. – December 6, 2023 – 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 two local students from Southern University have been selected to participate in the Association’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Scholars program.

Local awardees are:

Akajiugo Amucheazi – Junior biology major, Southern University and A&M College, native of Anambre States, Nigeria. Recipient of UIU International Student Scholarship 2022-23 Academic Year and Dean’s List scholar. Virtual volunteer tutor at Paper Airplanes, member of Baptist Collegiate Ministry, and Parliamentarian of the Southern University Minority Association of Pre-Medical Student. Akajiugo looks forward to fostering future career-building relationships.

Mentor: Robert Newton, Jr., PhD, Associate Professor, Physical Activity and Ethnic Minority Health, Pennington Biotechnology Research Center, Louisiana State University.

Mya Bailey – Junior biology major, Southern University and A&M College, native of Realto, Ca. National Dean's List and 2021-2023 Denny's Scholarship Recipient. Secretary for the Minority Association of Pre Med-Students and public relations chair for Biojags. Member of Honors Student Association, Student Government Association, and National Honors Society. Mya has a passion for learning and is excited to take part in leadership workshops.

Mentor: Miranda Mitchell, MD, FACP, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Internal Medicine Residency (Baton Rouge) and Director, Office of Diversity and Community Engagement (Baton Rouge Branch Campus).

The HBCU Scholars are enrolled in biomedical or other health sciences programs at their respective institutions. Through their participation in the Association’s Scholars program, they will study how the social determinants of health and other health disparities impact underserved communities. They will also be paired with a mentor, 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 Kerin Spears, executive director of the American Heart Association, Capital Area. “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 nationally by a grant provided by the Quest Diagnostics Foundation, which also supports the American Heart Association’s Hispanic Serving Institutes (HSI) Scholars Program. Locally, the program is sponsored by CareSouth Medical & Dental.

“This program plays an essential role in supporting the pipeline of HBCU students who will increase representation and equity in the health care field,” said Matt Valliere, CEO of CareSouth Medical & Dental.  “We are proud to support this next cohort of HBCU Scholars with the American Heart Association, Capital Area, 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.

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.

More about the American Heart Association’s HBCU Scholars initiative can be found here.


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.   

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