Meharry Medical College and Howard University are the two oldest HBCU medical schools in the country. Combined, the two schools produce over 80% of Black doctors and dentists practicing in the United States today. The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and Morehouse School of Medicine are the only other HBCUs with medical schools. When you consider that only 4% of physicians in the country are Black, a clear picture begins to emerge: Black doctors come from HBCUs.
Black physicians matter. Black people have long had, at best, a strained relationship with the medical establishment. The Tuskegee Experiment comes to mind, an infamous study in which Black men were intentionally left untreated of syphilis. The Tuskegee terror plot lasted from 1932 into the 1970’s. In more recent times, Black youth have been the targets of similar medical terror. From 1992 to 1995, the New York Psychiatric Institute experimented on Black and Latino youth, with a drug now banned by the FDA. The researchers wanted to test a hypothesis linking brain chemistry and aggressive behavior. Never forget that racist stereotypes do not magically disappear once one puts on a stethoscope: medical malpractice is inevitable.
Black people are more likely to suffer from a variety of ailments. Some are linked to diet and others have to do with environmental factors. With this in mind, Black people cannot afford to be alienated from the medical establishment. Still, there must be trust and after centuries of terror, the road is not an easy one. Black doctors can serve as a bridge between the two worlds. The more Black doctors we produce, the better off America will be: all of America. HBCU medical schools are doing their part but they need our help. In plain english, we need to write them some checks. Even with our support, however, there is an issue of pipeline; often our public schools fail to prepare Black youth to even apply for these programs.
Where do Black doctors come from? The answer is HBCUs, obviously. Black doctors are not only a point of pride for the Black community but a critical link between a mistrusting community and a medical establishment that often offers needed services. In a very real way, Black doctors are freedom fighters.
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