Is There A Doctor In The House? Black Students Face Higher Medical School Debt

September 24, 2013  |  

According to a new report, African Americans are hit disproportionately by medical school debt and this could affect the diversity of practicing physicians. The report from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health published in the journal PLOS One found that African-American medical school students have significantly higher amounts of anticipated debt than students of other races and ethnicities.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,300 medical students enrolled in 111 accredited medical schools during the 2010-11 academic year. What they found was that overall, 62 percent of medical students said they anticipated more than $150,000 in debt upon completing medical school. “But a much higher percentage of African-American students reported anticipated debt above $150,000, at 77.3, compared to white students, at 65 percent. Meanwhile, a lower rate of Hispanic or Latino and Asian students anticipated debt in excess of $150,000, at 57.2 percent and 50.2 percent respectively,” reports US News. This high medical school debt could affect the number of minorities becoming doctors.

Since 2004, the report says, the percentage of African-American students enrolled in medical schools has dropped, while enrollment for Hispanic and Asian students continues to rise. In 2004, black students represented 7.4 percent of students enrolled in Allopathic schools (the traditional route resulting in an M.D.), compared to 7 percent in 2011.

Asian students are overrepresented in the medical student population by 75 percent, while African-American students are underrepresented by 100 percent, according to the report.

Hispanic students anticipated lower debt, the reported suggests because that group of students are likely coming from immigrant households, despite the fact that group has among the lowest median incomes in the United States. Likewise, Asian students are more likely to come from immigrant families, which could explain their lower levels of debt, as “immigrant families may be less comfortable with the American norm of educational loan utilization than non-immigrant families,” explained co-author Abdulrahman El-Sayed, in a statement.

When making a college plan, it’s not a bad idea to consider graduate education in that plan, in case you have a doctor, lawyer, or professor in the making. And having members of the medical profession who are sensitive to different cultures, backgrounds, and medical concerns improves the level of care that patients get.

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