US medical schools still lack diversity despite decades of effort, USA Today finds

Alyssa Rege - Print  | 

Despite decades of effort to improve the number of African-American physicians practicing in the U.S., black students remain an underrepresented minority in medical schools, a USA Today investigation found.

USA Today decided to investigate medical school enrollment after the controversy involving Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who was allegedly pictured in blackface in a 1984 yearbook photograph during his time at Norfolk-based Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Three findings from the investigation:

1. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges cited by USA Today indicate the proportion of black students rose from 5.6 percent in 1980 to 7.7 percent in 2016. However, the percentage is still proportionately less than the 13.2 percent of the general population that identifies as black.

2. The disparity has a significant impact, as physicians of color can help the black community overcome a historical mistrust of the U.S. medical system, which contributes to poorer health outcomes for black Americans.

"It's been a persistent, stubborn racial disparity in the medical workforce. Medical schools have tried, but it also has to do with societal issues about what happens to a lot of kids in our country these days," Vanessa Gamble, MD, PhD, a professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., told USA Today.

3. The lack of black physicians stems from a variety of factors, including the high cost of attending medical school and the pull of other professions.

"The cream of the crop has a broader portfolio of things they can do. They can go into other disciplines, including MBA and law programs," Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told the publication.

To access the full report, click here.

More articles on physician integration issues:
ProPublica reporter with no MD named 'Top Doctor'
Georgetown launches campaign to fight microaggressions in medicine
Once-homeless physician to lead Ohio's health department

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