Diverse Physicians Needed To Improve Health Outcomes

There have been efforts to try and increase the number of minority ethnic groups in science and medicine but, the amount of African American men pursuing and obtaining degrees in such fields has reached a historic low. According to NBC news, in 1986 57 percent of black medical school graduates were men but, by 2015 that number dropped to 35 percent, even as the total number of black graduates in all fields had increased. And that downward trend is expected to continue. In fact, fewer African American men entered medical school in 2014 than in 1978.

Research shows that health outcomes for black patients are better when they are treated by black doctors. That research is critical given that African Americans in the United States generally experience poorer health outcomes across a variety of diseases and conditions. Currently black men have the lowest life expectancy of any major demographic group in the United State and live on average 4.4 years fewer than non-Hispanic white men. Black women are three to four times more likely to die as a result of complications from pregnancy, labor and childbirth than white women.

According to a NewYork Times article, The infant mortality rate in the black population is twice that of whites. Black men are seven times more likely than white men to receive a diagnosis of H.I.V. and more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer. Black women have nearly double the obesity rate of white women and are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Black people experience much higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and stroke.

Black patients are more likely to feel comfortable with black doctors and more likely to adhere to certain preventative measures delivered by black doctors, research shows.

Owen Garrick, president and COO of Bridge Clinical Research recommends exposing more young people of color to the field of medicine and helping them to become more competitive applicants through tutoring and interview prep.

“And you need advocates,” he said. “Since much of the medical school selection process is subjective, you need to get people on the selection committees who will relate and see the potential of black applicants as much as people relate to other applicants.”

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