As the nation begins to put in place the procedures for implementing the recently passed health care overhaul legislation, as recent studies show, minority communities may once again be underserved.
Although collectively, the Latino, American Indian and Black populations in the US total about thirty percent, only 8.7 percent of doctors in 2007 were from these groups according to a study in the Journal of Academic Medicine Journal of Academic Medicine.
The numbers aren’t getting any better. In 2009, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported a slight increase of 1 percent in the total number of minorities who applied to medical school since 2007 from 15% to 16% of the total pool of applicants.
It is estimated that by the time the overhaul in healthcare completely kicks in there will be 35 million newly insured Americans, creating a shortage of 100,000 primary care doctors in 2020. Black, Latino, Native American and other underrepresented minorities are more likely to practice primary care and three to four times more likely to work in underserved communities than their white counterparts, but are the least likely to be recruited by elite medical schools. These same medical schools such as John Hopkins, Northwestern and Vanderbilt place a stronger focus on specialized medicine and research.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “The Social Mission of Medical Education: Ranking the Schools,” ranked historically black universities such as Howard and Morehouse at the top of a list of medical schools whose graduates are more likely to practice primary care.
Senior vice president and dean of health sciences at Howard University, Eve Higginbotham responded, “It’s no surprise. We’ve known for a long time that minority students end up working in underserved areas four to five times more than majority students.”
An example of a program trying to better prepare minority students is Rutgers University’s Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences (ODASIS) which is working to close this gap in the medical field by recruiting underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students for a future in medicine and in all STEM areas. The program begins recruiting students as early as the ninth grade, and 86% of the ODASIS graduating class in 2009 were accepted into medical school. Only one black student from Rutgers was accepted into medical school the year the program was founded in 1986.
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