SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras visited Upstate Medical University Thursday to announce a program offering financial and academic support to undergraduate students looking to apply to medical school.

Malatras was joined by Upstate President Dr. Mantosh Dewan, with leaders from SUNY’s other medical schools at University at Buffalo, Stony Brook, and Downstate Hospital joining by Zoom.

The program is an expansion of SUNY’s 50-year-old Educational Opportunity Program, often referred to as EOP. The EOP offers tuition assistance and academic support to students whose parents aren’t able to.

“I have a family of seven and you know, my father works hard. He can’t pay for it. EOP helped me do that,” says SUNY ESF junior Bri’ajah’nae Hymes.

Now, Hymes will have similar help when she applies to Upstate Medical University’s physical therapy program.

The medical school equivalent of guidance counselors will help undergraduates make sure they’re taking the right classes, earn good enough grades and understand the process to apply to medical school.

Nakeia Chambers, the Director of Multicultural Affairs and Director of EOP at Upstate Medical University is one of the people counseling students.

Chambers says: “Here at Upstate, we get 5,000 applications and we have only 160 spots. That becomes competitive. If you come from a background that is underrepresented, disadvantaged, it’s a hard act to follow.”

The support doesn’t end with acceptance into a school, but extends through success.

Malatras says: “This is a sector where times are often tough and troubling, where you run into enormous social and emotional turmoil, but also physical turmoil when your body is pushed to the limit. Who can you go to for that extra support? Many of our students don’t have that family to lean on. Let’s provide that.”

The program is expected to be up and running this summer.