Despite 30 percent of the U.S. population being composed of African and Latinos Americans, these two minority groups only account for 10.3 percent of medical school graduates. This number has seen little growth over the past 50 years.
To reverse this trend, universities and community organizations around the country are offering scholarship programs from high school to college.
One program is the Northwestern Medicine Scholars Program at Westinghouse College Prep, a public high school in Chicago. The program, which was founded by Dr. Erica Marsh in 2011, provides mentoring by researchers and physicians, intensive test prep courses and college entrance support to students with a 3.2 GPA who are interested in math or science.
So far, 60 scholars from families that have very limited economic means have been accepted to the high school. Almost 100% have gone on to college and 60% of them have taken courses in science, technology, engineering, math and health-care.
The program is currently run by Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. He said that even if only one student becomes a professional and then returns home to serve as a role model, then, the program is successful.
Another academic organization that aims to increase the number of minority students in medical school is the Associated Medical Schools of New York. The program is working to lower financial barriers for medical students, specifically blacks and Latinos.
Braxton Jenkins, a 19 year old black Northwestern scholar who is now a student at Valparaiso University in Indiana, says the program provided him with unique experiences and opportunities. He participated in scientific research, along with “discussions about what it would be like being a person of color in college.”
Dr Yancy hopes that programs like Northwestern’s are implemented nationwide for underrepresented populations. According to a 2016 Association of American Medical Colleges report, from 1978 to 2015, 78.6 percent of graduates of U.S. medical schools were white or Asian. Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians together made up the remaining 21.4 percent.
Dr. Dale Okorodudu, president and founder of DiverseMedicine, said that black doctors are needed so that black patients have the option to choose somebody who shared their cultural experiences.
One of the most severe racial disparities in U.S. medicine is in maternal mortality rates. Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes nationwide; in New York City, they are 12 times more likely to die.
“Disparities can be narrowed with more cultural competency — that is, being open, understanding and willing to explain,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, professor at Johns Hopkins University, in an interview.