News & Announcements
National Medical Fellowships Announces Recipients of First of its Kind Behavioral Health Scholarship, Funded by The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey
National Medical Fellowships (NMF) is proud to introduce the first recipients of the Horizon Behavioral Health Scholarship, generously established in 2023 by The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, the philanthropic arm of Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc. (Horizon). This groundbreaking scholarship addresses the critical need for diverse psychiatrists and a general workforce shortage in the field. A 2022 study in Academic Psychiatry found that only 10.4% of practicing psychiatrists are Black, Latine, or Native American, compared with 32.6% of the U.S. population.
The Health Resources and Services Administration anticipates a rapidly widening gap nationwide between the supply of adult psychiatrists and demand—with the projected supply of psychiatrists dropping by 18% from 2021 to 2036, while the projected demand rises by 55% during the same period. While the supply of child and adolescent psychiatrists is supposed to increase during this period, demand rises at a faster pace.
The State of New Jersey is also facing a shortage in its psychiatry workforce. A 2022 survey by the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies found a disturbing psychiatrist vacancy rate of nearly 25% among its member agencies. Moreover, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry characterizes the shortage of psychiatrists serving children and adolescents in New Jersey as “severe.”
To address the crisis, this scholarship program provides financial support to four exceptional M.D. residents pursuing their residencies in psychiatry. Funded by Horizon, the program supports two first-year residents specializing in general psychiatry and two in pediatric psychiatry. Each recipient will receive $40,000 ($10,000 per year) during their four-year residency program.
“Mental health needs in our country have never been greater. Horizon has worked hard over the past four years to increase the number of mental health professionals in our network, particularly providers who are from or primarily serve historically marginalized communities. Good health is more likely when a person can see a doctor or other health professional who shares their lived experience and understands their culture. Increasing the number of Black and Brown mental health professionals will help improve health equity.”Suzanne Kunis, Vice President for Behavioral Health, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
“Horizon is proud to partner with NMF and champion this scholarship that helps address the critical shortage of diverse psychiatrists. By supporting these exceptional M.D. residents, we are ensuring that countless children and adults, across New Jersey, will have access to quality mental health care for decades to come.”Jonathan Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey
Dr. Nicolas Alvarado-Torres
First Year Psychiatry Resident, Ocean University Medical Center
Dr. Alvarado-Torres is committed to working with underrepresented communities, particularly Latino/e and LGBTQ+ populations. He earned a B.S. in Industrial Biotechnology and pursued medical education in Ponce Health Sciences University, Puerto Rico, where he participated in groups dedicated to LGBTQ+ interests and psychiatry. Dr. Alvarado-Torres worked as class representative and coordinator to facilitate safe spaces, organize awareness activities, collaborated in research analyzing risk factors for anxiety, depression, and gender dysphoria in the Latine Trans Community, and contributed to projects addressing stigmatizing behaviors in health care professionals towards patients with serious mental health illnesses.
“This scholarship represents not only financial support during the challenging transition to resident life, but also validation of my mission to contribute to mental health care for Latino/e and LGBTQ+ patients. I strongly believe that representation in medicine is crucial and aim to use this support to lessen the challenges faced by underrepresented individuals while advocating for my patients during my residency years and future practice.”Dr. Nicholas Alvarado-Torres
Dr. Krisdaniel Berreta
First Year Psychiatry Resident, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center
Dr. Berreta is dedicated to caring for the underserved, advocating for chronically marginalized individuals, and championing the diversification of medicine. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and a medical degree from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Carolinas. Throughout medical school, Dr. Berreta published articles advocating for the prioritization of immigrant and LBGTQ+ health and emphasizing the critical need to ensure that medicine is as diverse as the populations it serves. He also volunteered at a local free medical clinic, offering essential health care services to uninsured patients.
“This scholarship serves as a beacon of encouragement and validation for the path I have chosen. Such a generous investment in my education not only lightens the burden of the costs that accompany the pursuit of becoming a licensed physician but also empowers me to use the knowledge and skills gained to positively influence the mental health landscape in the underserved areas of our state.”Dr. Krisdaniel Berreta
Dr. Michael Enechukwu
First Year Psychiatry Resident, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
Dr. Enechukwu, a former high school science teacher, dedicates himself to community service and establishing connections between medicine and the community. His goals include expanding access to mental health services in communities with limited resources. He earned his degree in medicine from SUNY Upstate Medical University, where he spearheaded a program known as Peds Pal that empowered medical students to mentor and engage with pediatric patients facing chronic illnesses. Dr. Enechukwu also led his team to become semifinalists in the National Board of Medical Education Centennial Prize Competition for Innovation in the future assessment of health care professionals.
“I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, a city where socioeconomic challenges were a daily reality, so this scholarship not only recognizes the efforts I have invested over the years but also serves as a poignant reminder of why New Jersey holds a special place in my heart. The financial assistance it provides will enable me to focus on my responsibilities as a resident and contribute to community outreach initiatives as I am deeply committed to uplifting underrepresented communities.”Dr. Michael Enechukwu
Dr. Melvin Ways
First Year Psychiatry Resident, Rowan Virtua School of Medicine
Dr. Ways, born in Camden, New Jersey, is passionate about improving health in medically disadvantaged communities. His future ambitions include clinical psychiatry in southern New Jersey, a career in academic medicine to teach future healthcare leaders and developing research acknowledgment and academic accreditation standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion in medical education. He earned his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, where he volunteered with underserved populations, participated in student government and the New Jersey Association of Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons, and advocated for underrepresented medical students as part of The Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine Black Collective.
“With an abundance of student loans, it is easy to understand the financial significance of scholarships. I also understand the symbolic importance that comes with being chosen as a scholarship recipient and am eager to join a prestigious group of leaders who also call themselves National Medical Fellowships scholars. I look forward to continuing the tradition of mentorship and generosity as part of my legacy in medicine. I am eager to further my commitment to fostering the next generation of health professionals.”Dr. Melvin Ways
NMF scholarships and service-learning programs address the financial barriers faced by students of the health professions. The rising cost of education forces many students to choose between future financial security and their dreams of becoming physicians and researchers. NMF is nurturing health care, clinical research, and behavioral health leaders who are laser-focused on eliminating preventable health disparities. NMF scholars and alumni visionaries are at the forefront of thought leadership and the fight to deliver the highest quality of care to communities of color because everyone deserves the care they need to survive, thrive, and live long, fulfilling lives.
“NMF is grateful to Horizon for helping to ensure that a new generation of diverse health care leaders is ready to reimagine behavioral health care. This program is a critical step in building New Jersey’s health care system in a way that serves everyone with dignity, equity, cultural humility, and the highest quality standards of culturally competent care. We are thrilled to support these outstanding physicians as they pursue their psychiatry residencies and look forward to seeing their leadership continue to evolve.”NMF President and CEO Michellene Davis, Esq.
About National Medical Fellowships
National Medical Fellowships (NMF) is a nonprofit organization that advances health equity—where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to achieve their highest level of health regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or geography. Founded in 1946, NMF has awarded over $50 million in scholarships, and offers service-learning programs, mentorship opportunities, and clinical research leadership training for chronically marginalized students of medicine, behavioral health, and related health professions. Please visit nmfonline.org to learn more.
About The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s philanthropic arm, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is focused on making New Jersey healthier by supporting non-profit organizations that expand access to health care, remove barriers to good health, and increase opportunities for everyone to achieve their best health, no matter who they are or where they live. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit community.horizonblue.com.