The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC, 2023) and the National Medical Association (NMA) recently announced a joint effort to convene the Action Collaborative for Black Men in Medicine in an attempt to address the lack of representation of African American (Black) men in medicine. This national crisis was paying more attention to the fact that more Black men were applying and matriculating to medical schools in 1978 than in recent times.
However, since 2014, there has been only a tiny increase in the enrollment of Black men in medical school. Rivero (April 19, 2021) reports that “although the percentage of Black women physicians increased 2.7 percentage points between 1940 and 2018, the proportion of physicians who are Black men during the same period has remained essentially unchanged.”
Why is it essential? What about Black Women, you might ask?
MGH News and Public Affairs (April 14, 2022) reported that “over the 42 years, some positive news emerged. “Female representation increased dramatically, and female clinical faculty leaped from 14.8 percent in 1977 to 43.3 percent in 2019.”
In addition, the proportion of female deans rose from zero to 18.3 percent. However, AAMC data indicate that, in general, the growth and representation of Black men in academic medicine have stagnated or decreased, particularly among clinical faculty and department chairs. This trend began about a decade ago..
Research demonstrates that individuals are more likely to go to the doctor and, to be honest with their doctor about their health concerns if their doctor is the same race and, to a lesser extent, gender. For example, according to a 2020 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by four researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, African American patients have a better experience when their doctor is of the same race. Moreover, a 2022 Gallup poll shows that 53% of African Americans find it challenging to locate a same-race doctor.
Several variables contribute to African Americans’ health disparities, but the lack of African American doctors available in the United States often exacerbates these disparities. The AAMC and the NMA recognize a need to focus on systemic change and increased collaboration across the education pipeline to address persistent barriers that Black men face.
After two years of planning, the Action Collaborative is moving into its next phase, which requires engaging a broader range of partners in K-12, higher education, academic medicine, and professional organizations.
During the Summit, participants identified factors influencing the pipeline and trajectory of Black boys and men interested in medicine – premedical, academic medicine, and sociocultural factors. Factors related to academic medicine include pathway programs, recruitment, admissions, and leadership accountability for diversity. Unfortunately, many of these factors are embedded in institutional and societal structures and sociocultural environments shaped by systemic racism and negative narratives of Black men and climates that are not inclusive of Black men.
AAMC. (2023). Action Collaborative for Black Men in Medicine. https://www.aamc.org/about-us/equity-diversity-inclusion/action-collaborative-black-men-medicine
Gasman, M. (November 23, 2022). Why Increasing Black Men In Medicine Is Essential. Why Increasing Black Men In Medicine Is Essential (forbes.com) Why Increasing Black Men In Medicine Is Essential (Forbes.com)
MGH News and Public Affairs (April 14, 2022). Women see gains, Black men see losses in U.S. medicine. A diversity lag in U.S. medicine includes stalled progress for Black men – Harvard GazetteRivero, E. (April 19, 2021). Proportion of Black physicians in U.S. has changed little in 120 years, UCLA research finds. Proportion of Black physicians in U.S. has changed little in 120 years, UCLA research finds | UCLA