Fewer Black males were enrolled in the first year of medical schools last year than 32 years ago, a trend that, if left uncorrected, could hamper efforts to provide quality health care to underserved communities, according to a top officer in the American Association of Medical Colleges.
Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, made that startling disclosure at the recent Howard University Symposium on Unites States Healthcare. “We don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 years 15 years 20 years to intervene in effective ways to insure that we have the talent necessary to come to our institutions,” Nivet said. “If we don’t effectively intervene in this pipeline and hold our institutions and ourselves accountable for finding the talent that we know exists than we have failed those 32 million people soon to be enfranchised and we have failed ourselves.”
The conference brought together health professionals, students and educators to develop strategies to improving the pipeline for people of color in healthcare.
According to a diversity study by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Black women account for nearly two-thirds of the students entering the first year of medical school. “This positive trend for racial and ethnic minority women is not mirrored in their male counterparts: Black or African American males are applying to, being accepted to, and matriculating into medical school in diminishing numbers, which speaks to the increasing need for medical schools to institute plans and initiatives aimed at strengthening the pipeline,” the report stated.
Kendra McDow, 28, entered one of those pipeline programs, Minority Access to Research Careers, the summer after her freshman year at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.
“I knew that I wanted to be a doctor and felt like that program would provide me the opportunity to achieve my goal,” said McDow, who is currently a pediatric resident at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital in Baltimore.
The Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program was offered through a partnership with Temple University in Philadelphia. High school students who participated in MARC were given the opportunity to perform research and present their findings in professional journals and science conferences. MARC also put those students on a track to earn a Ph.D. or M.D. “It was an amazing experience for me, and honestly changed my life,” said McDow.
According to McDow, the MARC program at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School lost its funding, and now she wonders what will happen to students like her that want to pursue science or medical careers and don’t have the same opportunity she had.
With states and the federal government planning deeper cuts in higher education, more of those pipelines may get shutdown permanently.