To Med or Not to Med: A Viable Question for this Century

Careers usually have popular topics for scholarly review and debate.  The field of medicine has a plethora of topics that are newsworthy.  Healthcare reform and medical education are at the top of the list.  Members of the American Council of Women and Diversity in Medicine, Science, and Business have been researching the sudden explosion of new medical schools.  The team has been diligent in analyzing the research and design of medical schools, for the past four years.  The mission statements of many of these schools reference the shortage of primary care physicians that should impact this country by the year 2020.  Some even mention under-served populations as a motivation for building their program.  The new schools are opening with as few as 20 students and as many as 50.  Even existing medical schools are opening satellite campuses in remote areas.  The ideas are phenomenal.  It just makes sense to open new schools instead of watching our students go abroad to be guaranteed a seat in medical school.

The erection of new institutions for medical education seems exciting.  Until four years ago, the last allopathic medical school was built in the 1970’s.  In Miami, Florida alone, three new medical schools have received accreditation, and four more await decisions.  Usually, I write scholarly material and allow my sophisticated audience to make the necessary inferences.  However, some thoughts just will not stop invading the frontal lobe of my brain.  Will diverse and under-served populations have a fair chance at the seats in the new medical schools?  Will the new medical schools become just another group of big businesses?  The list of questions increases.

The American Medical Association issued an apology to African-American physicians due to previous inequality against the group.  The formal apology was issued in July of 2008.  Anne C. Beal, MD, MPH declared this apology an “important first step”.  “The matter is not ‘ancient history,’ because if it were, we wouldn’t be dealing with racial disparities in health care and health care outcomes. This is still something we’re working with and dealing with today,” said Dr. Beal, assistant vice president for the Program on Quality of Care for Under-served Populations at the Commonwealth Fund in New York City. (http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2008/07/28/prsb0728.htm)

In 1870, the American Medical Association barred African-American members.  It was not until 1968 that the AMA House of Delegates announced that it would expel states that did not allow African-American members.  I am sure that these historical facts will not surprise anyone who has studied American history, however, it is important to know that the AMA is working to correct the institutional injustices in which it played a significant role.  Today, the AMA utilizes the Minority Affairs Consortium to send African-American physicians to schools in under-served areas to motivate students.  The American Medical Association contributes over $100,000.00 annually to scholarships for diverse populations.  In 1910, 2.5% of medical doctors and medical students in the United States were African-American.  In 2006 the percentage decreased to 2.2%.  As a pioneering personality, I am elated to see the explosion in the building of new medical schools.  I will continue to report the progress that we make in the field regarding leadership and diversity.  My personal mission of empowering women and diverse populations to become leaders in the field, has been adopted by the ACWD-MSB.

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