NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences (ODASIS) at Rutgers had a dinner on April 28 to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

ODASIS is an office, part of the Division of Life Sciences, that supports underrepresented Rutgers undergraduates pursue science careers.

It began in 1986 due to the efforts of Dr. Francine Essien, a Rutgers biology professor. She wanted to something about the numbers of minority and disadvantaged students who went on to attend medical school.

Still today, there are huge discrepancies in health fields for minorities and disadvantaged students.

Nowadays, ODASIS has programs to aid students pursuing all allied health professions.

ODASIS’s programs include:

  • Access Med Phase I
  • Access Med Phase II
  • MCAT and DCAT courses for credit
  • A GRE preparation course for credit
  • The Civic Engagement and Service Education Partnership
  • A summer program for incoming freshmen
  • Several summer programs for undergraduate students

Nicole Tavernier, a graduating senior, has been involved with ODASIS since she participated in the incoming student summer program. She has also completed Access Med Phases I and II. 

“Here, everyone wants you to succeed,” she says. She had experiences at Rutgers where non-ODASIS professors were less than encouraging when she told them of her plans for medical school.

Her roommate, also in ODASIS, was taking the MCAT preparation class with her and encouraged her to go even when she was about to quit.

“I also like the friendships that you build,” she says. 

Tavernier is heading to Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in the fall.

The 30th anniversary dinner, held in Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center, featured several speakers:

  • Kenneth Breslauder, Ph.D., Dean of the Division of Life Sciences and Vice President for Health Science Partnerships at Rutgers University
  • Robert Barchi, M.D., Ph.D., President of Rutgers University
  • Sherine Gabriel, M.D., M.Sc., Dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Marc Nivet, Ed.D., M.B.A., Chief Diversity Officer of the American Association of Medical Schools
  • Karen Stubaus, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs and Administration at Rutgers

The dinner honored graduating seniors, ODASIS alumni, and second- and third-year students.

“I like knowing Dr. Khan [the director of ODASIS] has your back, and all the other instructors, they’re rooting for you the whole way,” says Brian Anyahnwu, a second-year pre-med student. “They’re for you.”

He is currently a part of Access Med I. When asked what support he gets from that program, he responds, “I can’t even describe it, they do so much.”

“We are more than just a ‘tutoring’ office, which many students view us,” says ODASIS assistant director Jonathan Langowski.

“We like to think of ourselves as an extension of the students’ families. We like to really get to know the students via developmental advising and really create a caring and nurturing environment to help students succeed in whatever path they may desire.”

ODASIS has a partnership with the Educational Opportunity Fund at Rutgers. Within the past 18 years, 68 EOF/ODASIS students have received M.D., M.P.H., D.O., D.C., P.A., R.N., Pharm. D., or D.D.S. degrees

However, if Governor Christie’s proposed EOF funding cuts go through, ODASIS will be impacted negatively.

What does the future hold for the program?

“We are working with a new generation of “tech” students, so we are branching out into social media on Facebook, Instagram and soon-to-be Twitter so that we can really be on the tip of everyone’s mind when thinking about succeeding in the sciences,” says Langowski. “We are also thinking about incorporating on-line SI sessions as well.”