Representation in the medical field is vital to closing the healthcare gap and improving health outcomes for Black Americans. And yet, in the United States, just 5 percent of all active physicians identify as Black or African American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Houston non-profit Mission Transformation has partnered with Baylor College of Medicine with the goal of improving these statistics. On Thursday the organization is launching its Future Doctor’s Camp, functioning as an extension of its existing coding camps that help engage young Black boys in STEM. The 3-day doctor’s program will teach Black and Brown mentees about medicine, and career opportunities, and provide an opportunity to work with Baylor College of Medicine medical students.
“Statistics show that Black males make up less than 3 percent of physicians, and many face numerous personal obstacles that prohibit successful careers in medicine,” says Mission Transformation founder Julius Bayone on the decision to launch the program. “Whether it’s a lack of mentors who look like them or the massive financial debt associated with academic medicine, many Black males in lower-income communities don’t believe they can pursue a career as a physician.”
In a 2016 study published by the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that African Americans had 2.6 times higher odds of medical debt than whites. In addition, African Americans were more likely to be contacted by a collection agency and have a greater need to borrow money because of medical debt, whereas whites were able to depend more on their savings.
The exorbitant costs associated with medical school, coupled with the pressing need for Black doctors, have created an urgent crisis—one Baylor recognizes. The College of Medicine’s Student Success Assistant Director Reginald Toussant approached Mission Transformation with the idea for the partnership, given its success in introducing young, Black males to STEM careers. At the three-day learning intensive, participants will be familiarized with career choices and a pathway to medicine. They’ll also get a crash course on the basics including physical exams, medical tools and imaging. And before completion, they’ll understand how to recognize emergencies, administer first aid and stop a patient from bleeding.
“I want participants to leave this program with an understanding of how important becoming a physician is to society and that they can be the conduit to change in a field that lacks representation,” Bayone tells EBONY. He adds that with Mission Transformation and Baylor in collaboration for the Future Doctors Camp, “we are only touching the surface of what this amazing long-term partnership can do and hope it will be the premier program for young men of color pursuing a career in medicine.”