Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
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A recently proposed bill would spend $1 billion to provide more resources, and encouragement, to doctors of color.
The Expanding Medical Education Act was introduced by Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., on July 30 and aims to “tackle the lack of representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in the physician pipeline.
The bill, according to a press release from Kaine, would provide grants to colleges and universities to establish or expand allopathic (which focuses on diagnosing and treating human disease) or osteopathic (which views the patient more holistically to reach a diagnosis) medical schools in underserved areas or at minority-serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Black Americans made up less than six percent of doctors in 2017, despite making up almost 12 percent of the U.S. population. Similarly, Hispanics also made up around six percent, even though they made up 17 percent of the population. This bill was proposed to help change that.
“Communities of color and those living in rural and underserved areas face significant barriers to health care,” said Kaine. “Medical students of color and those from rural areas are more likely to practice in the communities they’re from, but in many of these places, there are limited pathways to enter the medical profession. We need to diversify our physician pipeline and change the disparity in representation.”
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The legislation would encourage the recruitment, enrollment and retention of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to Kaine.
Citing the National Institutes of Health, NBC News reported that Black populations are less likely to trust medical providers for multiple reasons, including systemic racism or experiments in American history using Black people — without their permission — for medical research (The Tuskegee Experiment, for example).
“COVID-19 has shined a bright light on the health disparities that continue to persist in America’s communities of color,” said Norfolk State University President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston. “The Expanding Medical Education Act will help to address these disparities and diversify the physician pipeline by providing the financial resources to increase the number of medical schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and institutions of higher education in underserved and rural areas.”
Texas’ new tallying method recently confirmed that COVID-19 does, indeed, disproportionately affect people of color. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said discrimination and healthcare access, or lack thereof, plays a part in putting people of color at “increased risk of getting sick and dying” from the virus.