Today more resources than ever are available to help students of color pursue careers in the medical field. Opportunities stem from our nation’s expanding health care system and the urgent need for doctors with cultural understanding such as language, religion, and taboos. To increase the presence of minorities in medicine, we must educate ourselves on these new initiatives. We can then begin advising youngsters on how they can best prepare themselves to pursue a career in the growing medical field.
It is important that more minority students capitalize on opportunities to become healthcare providers. Why? Currently, a shortage of more than 16,000 physicians in the U.S. exists. By 2020, the gap is expected to grow to 90,000. This is particularly worrying for Latinos as Hispanic communities in nearly every area of medicine are already vastly underserved. Then there is the Affordable Care Act, which is expected to greatly improve access to healthcare for patients of color.
Additionally, a dear friend and first year student at the Howard University School of Medicine notes the importance of diverse healthcare providers. As I briefly mention in my introduction, connecting culturally, sharing the same language, or being treated by a doctor of the same gender can build comfort and trust necessary to provide accurate and high quality care to different populations of patients.
Exposure to the medical field begins during childhood as I discuss in Education Wednesday: Why Early Education Matters for Niños. This is why I was elated to watch an excellent new TV program for preschoolers “Doc Stuffins.” The cartoon features an African-American girl who fixes toys with the help of her stuffed-animal friends, entertaining while sending a powerful message to minority children that healthcare professions are reachable goals.
For older students of color preparing to go college or those at university pursuing pre-med majors, organizations across the country are investing millions of dollars to provide medical career prep and scholarships.
4 Resources to Encourage More Minorities in Medicine
- Medical School Tours: Featured in recent headlines, the Tour for Diversity in Medicine travels throughout the Northeast inviting African-American and Latino high school students to visit medical school campuses with the mission to foster future physicians. Consider arranging a tour for your student–no matter her age–to provide early exposure to learning and medicine.
- Pipeline Programs: Pipeline programs specifically target students from underrepresented groups to enhance their opportunities to enter medical programs. Starting as early as kindergarten, they can provide additional educational prep and mentorship. Here is a list of pipeline programs in your state.
- Scholarships: The number of scholarships for minority medical students is rapidly growing. Organizations such as the American Heart Association and the National Hispanic Health Foundation are offering financial aid to remove money as a barrier to enter the medical field. Check here for more scholarships opportunities.
- Specialized Secondary Schools: In the era of STEM and charter schools, specialized schools with curricula focused on medicine are preparing young students and cultivating young doctors. Check out South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Science and Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan (a middle school).
We as a country must continue to open new pathways that lead more women and minorities into medical careers. This will require parents and teachers do their part to encourage early participation in the appropriate classes so that minority students have the tools to succeed in these programs and can access resources such as grants and scholarships. Explore the emerging opportunities for minorities in medicine and plant the seeds for success now. In the future, we will need the medical expertise of our little ones to flourish.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.Any exciting medical opportunities happening in your area?