Denzel Washington. Will Smith. Taye Diggs. Mekhi Phifer. In movies and on television, African American men portraying physicians, dentists and other healthcare professionals are increasingly common.
But reality paints a different picture, showing gross under-representation of minority men in medical fields.
Alamance Community College, in partnership with the Alamance-Burlington School System, will address this growing disparity and spearhead a county-wide initiative meant to increase application and matriculation rates for minority males pursuing medical degrees. A suggestion by an ACC trustee sparked the initiative.
Beginning July 10, 40 Alamance County minority male middle school students will participate in the College’s 2017 Medical Bridge Summer Camp – a 3-week intensive immersion into math, science and writing programs that lays the groundwork for success in medical and STEM careers.
Additionally, those students will interact with mentors and role models during field trips to Duke University Medical Center, UNC Medical School, N.C. Central University’s biomedical/biotechnology research institute, the Greensboro Science Center and N.C. Bionetwork.
The goal is to develop a holistic approach that addresses the belief gap, the interest gap, the knowledge gap and the resources gap that are barriers to entry for prospective minority male participants.
Such barriers are responsible for a paucity of minority men in medicine. Consider: In 2014, 515 black men enrolled in medical school in the U.S. – down from 541 in 1978.
And while black males make up 6 percent of the U.S. population, only 1 percent of U.S. physicians are black men. Further, only 2 percent of full-time medical school faculty are black males.
“Medical and STEM careers lift students out of poverty or low paying jobs,” said Alamance Community College President Dr. Algie Gatewood. “Stable, highly-compensated jobs contribute to the overall well-being of any community and adds to the local tax base.”
Gatewood noted studies that show minority physicians are more likely to return to their communities and treat patients in underserved areas. They are more likely to build trust and connect with under-represented patients, exhibiting a cultural sensitivity that enhances treatment options – a goal of the federal Healthy People 2020 initiative.
All this, he noted, has a broader ripple effect because a healthier society increases productivity and decreases costs associated with chronic disease and palliative medicine.
The summer enrichment program is aimed at 6th through 8th graders and focuses on improving reading, writing, math and science skills.
The summer camp experience runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. It will prepare the students for the ABSS Early College experience, creating a pathway to ACC’s tuition-free Career & College Promise classes.
The College plans to seamlessly transition these students from middle school through high school and on into college course work for two years at ACC. Students then would transfer to a four-year college or university to continue their training.
Becoming a medical doctor is a long and difficult process, but this initiative increases the likelihood of success. The ACC Medical Bridge initiative is built on an enrichment and mentoring model endorsed by the American Association of Medical Colleges. The strategy is to start early and provide constant support and follow-up.
“We are encouraged by the local interest shown in this program,” said Dr. Gatewood. “We immediately filled each of the 40 available scholarship slots and there is a waiting list for the next cohort. Alamance Community College is committed to the success of this initiative because we are committed to the financial and social well-being of Alamance County citizens.