Owen Garrick, CEO and President of Bridge Clinical Research, wanted to know if a doctor's race made a difference in patients' health outcomes. To investigate this, he conducted a clinical study to determine if doctor's race mattered in successfully encouraging black patients to take advantage of preventive health care services, such as cholesterol and diabetes screenings. The results of the study showed that patients who met with black doctors asked for more preventive services than patients who met with non-black doctors. The data also revealed that black doctors are more likely to work in primary care, where there is a greater need, than in specialized care.
Although African Americans make up 13% of the U. S. population, they only represent 5% of physicians. This lack of diversity in the medical workforce has a direct impact on the health and well-being of black patients.
The white-dominated field of medicine has a history of exploiting African Americans, from the infamous “Tuskegee Study” to the case of Henrietta Lacks. Equitable healthcare requires progress both in the laboratory and in the clinic, and black physician-researchers tend to study issues related to the health of black communities. Structural inequalities that prevent Black students from pursuing careers in medicine still exist, but obstacles that block their paths can be reduced. Expanding financial aid for Black students during undergraduate school and beyond would go a long way, as would reducing test fees or establishing programs through which universities and medical schools would contribute to them.
A little over a year ago, the Association of American Medical Colleges sounded the alarm, reporting that there were fewer black men applying for and attending medical school than in 1978. While white doctors can serve as mentors to aspiring black doctors, they are less likely to practice in communities where black youth live. More Black Doctors Will Mean More Black Lives Saved and Fewer Debilitating Health Conditions That Limit Economic Opportunities in Black Communities. The total number of minority doctors, including black doctors, is increasing, although not as fast as it should. Coronavirus is infecting African Americans at a rate three times that of white Americans and is killing them twice as many times. The importance of having more black doctors cannot be overstated. Not only do they understand the lives and challenges of their patients as much as their clinical needs, but they also have the ability to give dignity to others, to give compassion in a time of vulnerability, to act ethically and to help those in need.