DR. MARCUS LAMBERT: This is the 50th anniversary of the Travelers Summer Research Fellowship Program. It is a tremendous milestone.
DR. RODERICK K. KING: The mere fact that this program has influenced and impacted the lives of so many of us, many of us feel indebted to come back and to participate in the celebration.
SPEAKER 1: I wouldn't be the physician I am today if it wasn't for the summer research program here at Weill Cornell.
DR. ELIZABETH WILSON-ANSTEY: On the heels of the civil rights movement, there was momentum for change. Growing racial tensions reached a boiling point across America, and academic institutions were at the forefront. Groups of marginalized students wanted more inclusion, so they occupied administration buildings across the country, including the Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University.
In 1969, the Travelers program was started at Weill Cornell Medicine as an effort to increase minority representation in medical schools and the physician workforce.
DR. MARCUS LAMBERT: We have students from all across the country. They're college students who are interested in medical school, who are also not just interested in becoming a physician, but also a researcher as well.
DR. CARLA BOUTIN-FOSTER: Diversity programs provide an avenue and a vehicle to introduce underrepresented minorities to the field of medicine, provide them with mentorship, and role models. I think that was one of the biggest aspects of this program for me was meeting other physicians who looked like, me who were from my community, who were doctors.
DR. RODERICK K. KING: A key element of how the program has helped me in my own career is that built in the program is a sense of excellence, and doing your best, and always trying to achieve the highest that you can to help others. To this day, that still is guiding me in my career.
DR. RAFAEL SOLTREN: Enrolling in the Travelers program was a very important step in my personal life. It was the first time I had been exposed to a formal medical program. The program further instilled in me the confidence to pursue my career goals.
DR. CHARLENE BODDIE-SPENCER: For me, the Travelers Summer Research Fellowship Program was absolutely life-altering, not just the friendships and the support systems that I was able to form while I was here, but also being able to do research, being able to be published before I even got into medical school was tremendously helpful to me in my career and in being able to get ahead.
DR. LINNIE GOLIGHTLY: It's important to have programs like travelers because not everybody starts from the same place, and it helps ensure that they're exposed and have equal opportunity.
DR. CAROL MCINTOSH: The Travelers research program, it opens up your eyes to a lot of different things. Diversity programs are ones where it helps you to feel that, yes, I can do this, and to actually see other people who have done it, which gives you the impetus to say, yes, I can do this, and then I'm also going to pull someone forward.
DR. WARRIA ESMOND: So, I believe this program is important. And 50 years is a very poignant pause to take and reflect, because in spite of 50 years of increasing access to medical education for underrepresented minorities, we still have a shortage of physicians of color that is not reflective of the population of this country.
DR. MARCUS LAMBERT: If you look at diversity within health care right now, you'll see that it's not where it should be, and I think we have a real great opportunity to change that and to move that needle.
DR. ELIZABETH WILSON-ANSTEY: Diversity is excellence. I am very, very proud and pleased that Weill Cornell sees the importance of such a program.
SPEAKER 2: You went in, you did it, you succeeded, and you pushed forward. Congratulations to all of you.
DR. CARLA BOUTIN-FOSTER: Travelers has done a tremendous amount of work over the past 50 years, but there is more work to do. There really is. And what Travelers has done is really to build a network of physicians who are colleagues, who were friends, who are mentors for each other. So this program is definitely important, and I'd love to see it continue for the next 50 years and beyond.
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On the heels of the civil rights movement, Weill Cornell Medicine launched the Travelers Summer Research Fellowship program to help increase minority representation in medicine. Now 50 years later, program leaders and alumni reflect on its legacy.