I can remember episodes from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and other Black sitcoms where the wife wanted the husband to make a doctor’s appointment. The whole ordeal took much convincing and treat-baiting. Unfortunately, this isn’t just left for TV episodes. Men seem to have more of a problem going to the doctor, but what can help is speaking with someone who looks like them. A new report shows this may begin to happen less and less as the number of Black men in medical school has declined.
The Association of American Medical Colleges found that in 2014, 1,337 Black men applied for medical school while in 1978 there were 1,410 applicants. The number may seem small, but the real issue is that over the past 35 years that number should have grown. It could also have huge consequences for African American communities.
Dr. Frederick is a physician and President of Howard University who explained that expansion of Black male medical school applicants should be the goal, as other racial groups of doctors have grown or at least remained steady.
“The dramatic thing about it is that it hasn’t expanded. You would hope that you would have a larger number of African-American males being trained in medicine. That number presents a dramatic fall—the fact that it’s a lower number given the population.”
Black men often face more barriers to medical school, including funding and finding mentors. Frederick has found that the incoming freshmen of black men are scoring high on their standardized tests, but choosing careers in finance over medicine. And while it’s great that these men are succeeding in other fields, a lack of future Black male doctors also means a lack of mentors that can help support and guide young aspiring physicians of color.
The study interviewed doctors and medical students and many stated resilience was a key characteristic necessary to succeed in the field where Black men face many stereotypes regarding their professional growth.
So, what does this mean for the African American community at large? Well, many men and women alike have a certain level of distrust in medical research due to incidents such as the Tuskegee Experiment or even the recent news claiming Planned Parenthood was started with the goal of aborting African American babies. This history often cripples those making decisions to participate in necessary medical research or even making appointments. A decline in Black doctors will only add to this.
“Tuskegee has left a long-lasting impression. Signing up African Americans in clinical research is already a difficult thing to do. It becomes more difficult if you have fewer African American physicians. It can have really dramatic effects in terms of overall health for certain communities,” said Dr.Frederick.
Do you prefer an African American doctor?