Study outlines challenges for black males in medicine

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Detroit — The number of African-American males applying to medical school has steadily declined every year except 2014 since 1978, according to a study released Monday at the National Medical Association Convention and Scientific Assembly.

In “Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine,” the Association of American Medical Colleges collected the perspectives of black premed students, physicians, researchers and leaders and found common themes. The report also highlights data from various sources to explore the factors that may contribute to the decline.

According to the report, the number of African-American, American Indian, Alaskan Native and Latino applicants and graduates of medical schools have remained mostly stagnant for the last 10 years.

In 2014, there were 1,227 African-American applicants admitted to medical schools, which is a slight increase over the 933 applicants in 1978. That’s compared to 10,609 white applicants in 2014.

The study determined through interviews that “resilience” was a key to success.

“Interviewees noted that being a medical student was already strenuous, but that black men also have the potential to encounter bias or stereotyping that calls for the need to develop greater resilience,” the study said. “Themes of sacrifice, hard work, self-awareness and self-knowledge were also emphasized as important to becoming a physician.”

Having a support system and mentors were also cited as important factors in success.

Former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher claps before joining the panel discussion at the 113th annual National Medical Association Convention and Scientific Assembly, Conference on Minority Health & Health Disparities and Surgeons General Summit.

“Interviewees explained that relationships can have both positive and negative influences on career exploration and decisions,” the study found. “In some cases, young black men may be more likely to come from communities living in poverty, and their parents may expect them to work while they’re in school.”

Another factor in the decline was that African-American men may be more likely to be educated early in life in under-performing schools and consequently achieve lower grades. According to the study, 18 percent of black high school sophomores in 2002 aspired to become a doctor, but just 7 percent of medical school applicants in 2012 identified as black.

The study was released Monday during the convention.

Thousands of doctors were expected to attend the convention, which included seminars, panel discussions and other events focusing on issues affecting minority health outcomes. Topics include the Affordable Care Act, the declining number of black male doctors and efforts to bridge the gap between minorities and health care providers.

The convention runs through Wednesday.

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