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Introducing PrIMES (Program for Individualized Mentorship Education Solutions)

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Dr. Benjamin Hartley, Dr. Caitlin Hoffman, and Dr. Philip Stieg, Chairman of the Neurological Surgery Department
Dr. Benjamin Hartley, Dr. Caitlin Hoffman, and Dr. Philip Stieg, Chairman of the Neurological Surgery Department

As part of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Diversity Week 2019, fourth-year neurosurgery resident, Benjamin Hartley, M.D., presented the progress made by the new Program for Individualized Mentorship Education Solutions (PrIMES) during its first year. PrIMES, a new effort aimed at increasing medical school enrollment of under-represented populations, pairs undergraduates interested in medicine with medical student mentors at Weill Cornell Medical College.

The program was founded in 2018 by Dr. Caitlin Hoffman, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Benjamin Hartley. In its first year, 11 students from Weill Cornell Medical College were matched with under-served, under-represented college students from the New York City area to help prepare them for the medical school application process. The medical students met regularly with their mentees, in person or via videoconference, following a targeted curriculum that provides practical skills, access to resources, and need-based guidance. The first cohort of undergraduates has already made significant progress towards their goal of completing medical school application.

 “Ethnic and racial diversity in medical school classes is an essential part of solving the health care disparity crisis in the United States,” says Dr. Hoffman, who heads the neurosurgery department’s diversity and inclusion efforts. That process starts during the undergraduate years, she adds, when minority students are most at risk for abandoning their goals and leaving the pipeline, based on preliminary study in collaboration with Dr. Lynne Holden of Mentoring in Medicine. It is at this critical juncture, between freshman and sophomore year, that URiM students can most benefit from role models and one-on-one mentorship to sustain their involvement and success in matriculation to medical school.  

“Of the graduating class of 2015, six percent of graduates were Black or African American, and 5 percent were Hispanic/Latinx,” Dr. Hartley adds. “What’s concerning is that these figures were almost identical in 1974. PrIMES aims to improve those numbers and bridge the gap between white and nonwhite medical students.”

Future plans include expanding the PrIMES program nationally to peer institutions. “We want all students to have an equal opportunity to pursue a medical education, regardless of their racial or ethnic background,” says Dr. Hartley.

Find out more about PrIMES at Weill Cornell Medicine here.

For more information, please contact Dr. Hartley at