Building a more diverse health care workforce across the Delaware Valley

Iris Reyes, who founded the Alliance of Minority Physicians in 2012, is working to expand the program to underrepresented students and professionals across the region.

Iris Reyes helps to open doors for new generations of physicians from populations historically underrepresented in medicine (URiM) to reach successful and impactful careers in medicine.

Reyes, a professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM), founded the Penn and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)-led Alliance of Minority Physicians (AMP) in 2012 to support such efforts. Since then, AMP mentors and faculty have guided URiM students and trainees at Penn and CHOP, driving a threefold increase in the number of minority physicians training in Penn or CHOP residency or internship programs.

Claudia Gambrah-Lyles (right) facilitating medical simulations in heart and respiration monitoring for pediatric patients.
At AMP’s first Med Immersion Day, Claudia Gambrah-Lyles (right) facilitated medical simulations in heart and respiration monitoring for pediatric patients. Students did assessments on the mannequin of a 5-year-old trauma patient, interpreting changes in vital signs and responding accordingly. (Image: Penn Medicine News)

Now, Reyes is working with diversity leaders from the Consortium of DEI Health Educators (CDHE)—representing each of the six major medical schools in the Philadelphia area—to expand AMP and serve URiM students and professionals across the region.

“In expanding, AMP is positioned to influence the futures of URiM professionals. And at the end of the day, the patients and communities we serve are what center and drive this work,” says George Dalembert, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine and associate director of CHOP’s Center for Health Equity.

In 2023, a grant from the Independence Blue Cross (IBX) Foundation’s Institute for Health Equity accelerated this growth, providing funding for programming specifically focused on recruitment and retention.

AMP has leveraged those partnerships to launch a new effort, the Pathways to Excellence in Medicine (PEM) initiative, offering students hands-on training, networking opportunities, expert perspectives, career guidance, and more.

“The IBX Foundation was really interested in creating a pathway for URiM students and trainees to set down roots and stay in the Philadelphia area,” says Reyes. “As we’ve continued this growth, we’ve opted to start from the ground up, targeting the greenest of the green: first year medical students.”

Claudia Gambrah-Lyles has been involved with AMP since medical school at PSOM. After graduating in 2019, Gambrah-Lyles completed her residency in Pediatric Medicine at CHOP and is currently completing a child neurology dual residency at CHOP and Penn.

“The opportunity to meet and engage with AMP faculty and trainees across Penn and CHOP is one of the reasons why I wanted to go to PSOM,” said Gambrah-Lyles. “As a medical student, I was eager to contribute to AMP’s mission by supporting each new cohort of students along their path.”

Since her start with AMP, she has worked with AMP to open opportunities for exposure, training, guidance, and support for URiM students. Gambrah-Lyles now serves on AMP’s Advisory and Planning Committee.

This story is by Jonathan B. Waller. Read more at Penn Medicine News.