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Medical Schools Notice An Enrollment Incline Among Black Students

New data shows the number of Black students pursuing medical physician careers across the nation is increasing, with the number of first-year Black students being up 21%, a record incline since 2020.

“We have never seen such an increase within a short amount of time,” Norma Poll-Hunter, Leader of the workforce diversity efforts at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), said

According to the association’s latest data, released in 2019, only 5% of the country’s doctors are Black. Poll-Hunter suggested Black patients are likely to convey satisfaction with their care when their physicians look like them.

“When Black physicians, male physicians are working with Black male patients, we see better outcomes in preventative care or on cardiac care,” Poll-Hunter said. “We’ve also seen that in terms of infant mortality, as well.”

Colleges and Universities are curating new diverse and inclusive procedures to reduce barriers for students of color. Poll-Hunter, said medical schools are combating against disparities afflicting Black students by looking beyond test scores, waiving application fees, and having remote student interviews, utilizing unconscious bias in their admissions procedures.  

Joyce Sackey, dean for multicultural affairs and global health at Tufts, expressed the ongoing racial injustices have influenced the admissions office to double down on their diversity efforts. 

That acknowledgment is leading to more diversity on campus,” Sackey said. “We’ve been working hard at this.

Inclusive plans will allow a fair opportunity for Black students to receive a second look at their applications, especially from underrepresented communities. 

“Medical schools are like the Titanic,” she continued. “It’s very difficult to move policies and processes, to be honest. But we are a medical school that has declared that we want to work towards becoming an anti-racist institution. This stand may have also signaled to applicants whom we accepted that maybe this is a place that they can make home.”

With medical school costing an extensive amount, graduates will finish with thousands in debt, leaving many to reconsider becoming physicians. Dr. Cedric Bright, Dean of admissions at East Carolina University’s medical school, expressed debt-loads discourage many would-be doctors from applying to medical schools.

“We perpetuate that issue because we give scholarships for merit and not scholarships for need,” Dr. Bright said. “We’ve got to find ways to decrease the cost of medical school.”

Medical schools plan to provide more equality and need-based scholarships instead of merit-based scholarships. 

“We need to empower communities to want to raise money to say, ‘We will pay for students that come from this community and hopefully, when they finish, they’ll come back to our community and practice,'” he added.

Tufts Medical School student Sabrina Lima, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, is a part of the small Black med student group on campus. Post-graduation, Lima has plans to poor back into her community. 

“I definitely want to open up clinics,” she said. “I want to work in low-income areas.” 

Lima anticipates serving first-generation immigrant families in Newark, New Jersey, close to her hometown of Union.

“A lot of my early health experiences have been in Newark,” Lima said, “so I definitely have a heart for that community.”

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