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AAMC Program Aims to Make the Healthcare Industry More Diverse



By Chris Hassan
Posted January 12, 2012 10:44 PM

Organization hopes to create a more diverse healthcare industry.
Organization hopes to create a more diverse healthcare industry.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently reported that the number of first-time African American applicants to medical school rose by 4.8% in 2011, while the number of actual enrollees increased by 1.9%, according to a press release.

Despite the fact that these numbers represent an improvement over data from 2010, there are those who still feel there is not enough diversity in today’s healthcare industry. According to the American Medical Student Association’s (AMSA) website, even though ethnic minorities make up 26% of the U.S. population, only 6% of practicing physicians are African American, Native American or Latino.

This low number is problematic for the AMSA, as a lack of diversity in the medical field can lead to the development of biased and intolerant training and treatment environments.

William Simmons, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that African Americans have the highest incidence of AIDS and sudden infant death syndrome, as well as the highest death rate of diabetes, heart disease and most forms of cancer. These problems are only compounded by the fact that minorities often have difficulty accessing medical care and can be reluctant to seek help from physicians they feel may not understand their needs.

One way to reverse these trends and improve health outcomes among minority patients is to increase the number of African American males who are enrolled in medical school. This also happens to be one of the goals of the Gateway Medical Society (GMS), the southwestern Pennsylvania organization that Simmons recently became the president of, according to the Post-Gazette.

The GMS, a component of the National Medical Association, lists addressing ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare among its goals on the organization’s website.

To set more African American males on a path towards practicing medicine in the healthcare industry, the GMS launched its Journey to Medicine program in 2010, the Post-Gazette reported. Through this initiative, 15 African American sixth-graders are selected from public schools and take part in educational activities that help them acquire professional and medical skills at an early age. As these youths progress through the program, a Gateway physician mentors them.

"We’re hoping to catch them at a young age and fill that pipeline," Jan Madison, the GMS’ chair of fundraising, told the Post-Gazette.

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