A lack of African American males entering the medical profession is having a broad overall impact on the black community, a new study shows.
According to a 2015 report from the American Association of Medical Colleges, between 1978 and 2015, the number of black males entering medical school dropped from 1,410 to 1,337, even as the number of black men earning college degrees rose, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. In contrast, during those same years Asian and Latino male doctors increased.
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This means, despite a growing applicant pool, the number of black males seeking careers as physicians across the nation is trending downward. The resulting effect is felt in two areas.
First, black male doctors make a difference in underserved communities where medical aid is difficult to obtain, the AJC said. The tend to provide the services their fellow doctors do not. Secondly, black men are more likely to visit black male doctors for routine treatment. Black men have the shortest lifespan of all demographic groups and have higher chronic disease rates. But a recent survey showed that black men are more receptive to medical recommendations from other black men.
According to the report, declining numbers point to Black men focusing more on careers in the sciences and business. Also medical school tuition and fees are unaffordable for many black men and they are less willing to finance a 10-year education in pursuit of a medical degree.
Black men make up six percent of the country’s population, but they are less than two percent of the nation’s 18,000 medical school students, only 257.
Morehouse School of Medicine President Valerie Montgomery Rice said the interest in there and the school is trying to develop a local pipeline program to bring men into the profession.
“We know that black doctors made a difference in the health-seeking behavior of black men. We know that black male doctors are more likely to work in underserved communities,” Rice said.
Morehouse is working hand in hand with the Atlanta Public Schools system to influence Black male youth and navigate them toward STEM careers.
“Why it is important to have black males?” asked Dr. Art Raines, an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta who also serves on the admissions committee of the University of Michigan’s medical school.
“I can tell you that we relate differently and are more sensitive to the needs of our black patients. We look at minority patients more as human beings rather than just a shoulder, a knee, or someone with an illness. Our patients sense that. There is a need for us. The more of us out there, the more visible we are, the more impact we can have on our communities.”
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Norma Poll-Hunter, the Association of American Medical Colleges’s senior director of human capital and the author of the study, said the report is a “clarion call.”
“We talk a lot about impact of diversity on the physician workforce,” she said. “We know that black doctors made a difference in the health-seeking behavior of black men. We know that black male doctors are more likely to work in under served communities. We have significant health disparities, and if we had more individuals, we could put a dent in that.”
At 12.7 percent, Georgia is second in the nation that is home to a high of all doctors who are African-American. Washington, D.C., is first with 14.5 percent of black doctors.