By Wendy Sarubbi | September 30, 2013 12:07 pm

As executive medical director of Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Dr. Jacqueline K. Williams has been out of medical school for 30 years. Yet she still remembers the look of pride on her financial aid officer’s face when she said told Williams she had earned a National Medical Fellowship (NMF) to pay for her medical education. “Back then, I was young and unaware,” Dr. Williams said. “Now I understand the importance of having people of different ethnic backgrounds involved in the field of medicine.”

Dr. Williams traveled to the UCF College of Medicine from Gainesville on September 27 to attend an NMF kickoff meeting as the group works to establish more alumni chapters. The meeting was designed to share the group’s mission of increasing diversity in the field of medicine to students, faculty and community physicians.

Founded in 1946, National Medical Fellowships is dedicated to addressing healthcare disparities by increasing the number of underrepresented minority physicians and health professionals in the United States. Through its scholarships, the organization hopes to change the face of medicine so healthcare providers better reflect the diverse patients they serve.

The average medical student graduates with $200,000 in debt, a burden that is especially difficult for minority students whose average family income is about $30,000. The NMF has more than 30,000 alumni in the United States and hopes to get an active alumni chapter in the greater Orlando area.

Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the UCF College of Medicine, welcomed participants to the kickoff, saying that the college and the NMF share goals for increased inclusion in medicine. “We are a new College of Medicine looking to the future in a new Medical City and we’re looking to redefine the future of healthcare and economic development for all,” she said.

Dr. Lisa Barkley, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at the College of Medicine, is a board-certified physician in family, sports and adolescent medicine. She told participants about UCF’s pipeline programs, which help local high school and middle school students become qualified for jobs in the healthcare industry. “We want to grow more students who can be involved in your programs,” she told NMF leaders.

Dr. Williams’ daughter, Catherine Bailey, hopes to be one of those students. She just graduated from the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and hopes to enter medical school and become an OB-GYN or a neonatologist. She joined her mother at the NMF event and later spent time talking with UCF first-year medical students who attended as well, learning about the excitement of attending a new medical school in an emerging Medical City.

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