50 Years of Excellence: Travelers Summer Research Fellowship

On the heels of the civil rights movement, a small, Ivy League medical school in New York City, long committed to advancing diversity in medicine and science, launched a summer fellowship program designed to do just that.

Since its founding in 1969, Weill Cornell Medicine’s Travelers Summer Research Fellowship program has offered pre-medical students from groups historically underrepresented in medicine with up-close views of the field, aiming to increase the number of minority physicians in the workforce. Participants engage in research opportunities, faculty shadowing, science lectures and small-group discussions on topics such as health disparities.

Now 50 years later, Travelers has trained 1,217 pre-med students from across the country. From 1969 to 2015, 82.7 percent of Travelers alumni went on to gain admission to medical school. Program organizers and alumni, along with Weill Cornell Medicine students and faculty, gathered last fall to celebrate Traveler’s anniversary and successes.

“It’s important to have programs like Travelers because not everybody starts from the same place,” said Dr. Linnie Golightly, associate dean of diversity and inclusion at Weill Cornell Medicine. “It helps ensure that they’re exposed and have equal opportunity.”

The reunion event, held in Uris Auditorium, brought together 175 alumni, supporters, and current and former leaders–including Travelers founder, Dr. James Curtis–many of whom have remained connected to the program and each other, as colleagues, mentors and friends. Past participants, who now hold a variety of roles in medicine and healthcare, including medical school leadership, top government positions and as chief medical officers, shared experiences and memories as they hailed the milestone.

“Diversity is excellence,” said Dr. Elizabeth Wilson-Anstey, assistant dean of diversity and student life, who has worked with the program since 1976 and is now its director. “I am very, very proud and pleased that Weill Cornell sees the importance of such a program.”

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