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Increasing number of Black MDs becomes nationwide concern


National Medical Association conference

The dubious relationship between the medical field and the Black community have led to a disproportionate amount of Black physicians and a lack of Black people in the medical field. This has led many experts to debate the root problem, a solution was found during the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).

On Sept. 21, the National Medical Association (NMA) held the eighth annual Professional Development Series at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to discuss the future of healthcare and some of the critical issues in the medical world. During the meeting, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about the financial support HBCUs receive in their medical department to help aid and push more Black people into the medical field.

“We have $300 million in the bill, and it will go to those medical schools that focus on graduating doctors who go into primary health care. HBCUs do an excellent job at that,” Sanders said. In addition, we have a carve-out of 20%, which would be $60 million dollars, that will go to minority medical schools, primarily HBCUs. So our effort will significantly expand the number of Black doctors in this country.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), only 5.7% of U.S. doctors are Black or African American, while African Americans make up about 12% of the U.S. population. These contrasting numbers have many on edge as the shortage is detrimental and has negatively affected the lives of many Black and African American people across the country.

Michael Dill, director of workplace studies for the  Association of American Medical Colleges,  attributes the lack of trust to racism at the institutional and systemic level.

“At young ages, exposure to the sciences, science education resources, mentors and role models all make it more likely that a child could become a doctor – but such exposures and resources sometimes are disproportionately not as accessible in the Black community,” Dill said.

Dill continued that improvements in the admission offices of medical schools and change to their holistic approach to student acceptance is a good first step in the right direction. “We need to look at which schools produce the most medical students and figure out how we improve the representation of Black students in those schools,” he said. “That requires going back to pre-college – high school, middle school, elementary school, kindergarten, pre-K – we need to do better in all of those places to elevate the overall trajectory to becoming a physician and make it more likely that we will get more Black doctors in the long run.”

Dill’s plan is something that the AAMC and NMA could consider as they are engaged in a collaborative effort to address the low numbers of Black male physicians in medical school, as the numbers only increased marginally since 2014 from 2.4 to 2.9 percent.

“Our physician leaders, health care expert speakers, and legislators spent today addressing many of the challenging issues we face in transforming health care outcomes for Black communities. We are grateful that Sen. Sanders was able to join us and share some of the legislative solutions we can support to make a change,” Yolanda M. Lawson, the NMA 124th president said.