Originally discussed at the Las Vegas Meharry Medical College Alumni Fall chapter meeting on 10/10/2015
Luther Adair, II, MD, ‘06
- The struggle to produce doctors of color remains
- Preservation of a legacy of leadership in service to underserved communities
- There are more choices than ever now
- Opportunity to reach within our pool of resources
Number 1. The struggle to produce more doctors of color remains at many crossroads: teaching institutions such as Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Howard University College of Medicine are in prime positions to nurture community-based partnerships in order to address the shortage of underrepresented minorities in the health professions. According to the Bayer corporation in 2010, the top three reasons for minority underrepresentation in the sciences are lack of quality science and math programs in poor school districts, persistent stereotypes that minority students can’t cut it, and financial issues related to the cost of education. Furthermore, as of 2006 when I graduated from medical school, underrepresented minorities made up just 6% of all physicians and 5% of dentists.
Number 2. The second reason centers around the preservation of a legacy of leadership in service to underserved communities. The legacy of African American leaders and principles continues to be questioned or marginalized. These things are especially hurtful to the future generations who will grow up without role models that resemble them. The problems faced by underserved populations remain constant while the definition of what constitutes a minority becomes nebulous. In every city that my wife and I have lived, this population is clear. And while it doesn’t always look the same or even speak the same language, the challenge is binding.
Whether it’s “Aloha!” on the West side of Honolulu, “Hola!” in East Las Vegas, or “What’s up!” in North Las Vegas, our connection with someone in these communities or communities with similar patterns is almost certain. To know that the color of one’s skin predisposes them to certain disease processes and healthcare risks is both a threat to good science and to the United States as a world leader.
Number 3. There are more choices than ever as the world is flat. Demographics are changing in cities quicker than ever, which also provides unique opportunities for some of our students. While the world remains flat, it is not time to dilute our product but to invigorate it with more cultured and achieved participants. Meharry Medical College committed to this very principle by placing Dr. James Hildreth at the helm as president of the College this past spring. Hildreth, who is attributed with groundbreaking research in HIV prevention, is not enough. We need 130 more James Hildreth’s each year between the graduating classes of dental and medical schools.
Number 4 . Reaching within our pool of resources becomes an opportunity for us to restore faith in ourselves. The funny thing is that with the three reasons I just mentioned, minority communities, particularly the African American community, aren’t always in agreement about the strength of its resources. However, having a consolidated group of resources that you can count on is a huge help in the real world. This is the talented tenth restoring faith in itself.
Now is not the time to become inert, as if you are not in the game, you or someone you love will become a casualty of it. Let’s support our beloved alma mater as institutional level commitments are needed in this fight and this is where it all starts.
U.S. Women and Minority Scientists Discouraged from Pursuing STEM Careers, National Survey Shows, Bayer Corporation Press Release, March 24, 2010, CSR Wire, http://www.csrwire.com .
Zayas, LE & McGuigan, D (2006) Experiences promoting healthcare career interest among highschool students from underserved communities. Journal of the National Medical Association; 98:15231531. Organized Noise: Partnering with the Community to Address the Shortage of
Underrepresented Minorities in the Health Professions, Issue Brief July 2011, Kweli R. Henry. Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, http://www.downstate.edu/healthdisparities .
A Report of the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce, Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions (2004), www.sullivancommission.org.