Health, Wellness Of Blacks Could Suffer Due To Loss Of Black Male Physicians

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April V. Taylor

The Association of American Medical Colleges recently completed a study that shows that the number of Black men applying to medical school is in a steady, persistent decline. This comes at a time when the American population continues to become more and more ethnically diverse, meaning the negative impact a lack of Black male physicians could have on the health and wellness of an undeserved and vulnerable population segment is only heightened.

Healthcare challenges are greatest in low to moderate income communities, and Black physicians are generally better equipped to treat people from those communities because they usually share a similar heritage and cultural awareness. Research shows that patients respond better to doctors who share this kind of kinship with them, and it also shows that Black doctors are more likely to be willing to work in the underserved communities where they are best responded to and most needed to help close gaps in health and wellness outcomes for people of color.

Statistics show that barriers to quality care have led to Black people disproportionately suffering from debilitating chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Multiple studies conducted over the course of many years show that, even if it is not the result of direct and blatant racism, Black patients receive substandard care that differs in both quality and quantity as well as experience a lack of concern about how Black patients respond differently to various pharmaceutical treatments.

Early in the Obama administration, Black doctors accounted for only 6 percent of the country’s physicians, and that number has only continued to decrease. One program trying to address the decline is the Tour for Diversity in Medicine, which visits historically Black colleges and universities to encourage and educate Black students about entering the medical field. As chief operating officer for Ascension Health Patricia A. Maryland points out, “We need to encourage our best and brightest Black men to seriously consider a career in medicine. The health and well-being of our entire community is at stake.”

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