Fewer Black Males in Med School, STEM Studies a Solution

By Sheryl Estrada

Photo by Shutterstock

With the predicted shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians by the year 2025 and a greater number of Black males attending medical school in 1978 than in 2014, doctors in the U.S. will not be as diverse as the patients they serve.

According to the report,”Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine,“the number of Black male applicants to medical schools dropped to 1,337 in 2014 from 1,410 in 1978, despite an overall increase in the number of Black male college graduates over the past three decades. In 1978 there were 542 Black males who matriculated to M.D.-granting institutions, and in 2014 there were 515.

“No other minority group has experienced such a decline in applications to medical school,” said Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer at The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and author of the report.”The inability to find, engage and develop candidates for careers in medicine from all members of our society limits our ability to improve health for all.”

The report, released bythe AAMC onAug. 3, captures major themes from interviews with Black premedical students, physicians, researchers and leaders and incorporates research and data from various sources to find broad-based solutions.

Percentages of U.S. Medical School Applicants in 2014


(Source:”Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine“)

The percentage of medical school applicants was low for Black males in comparison to other races. And the almost 2-to-1 gender gap between Black female and male applicants was the largest gender disparity of any racial group.

According to a National Science Foundation report, among males earning science and engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2002 and 2012, Black males have earned a lowpercentage.

Science and Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to Men in the U.S. 2002 and 2012


(Source: National Science FoundationCompletions Survey, 2002-12)

In May, a group of Black male STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals spoke with Congressional staffers and representatives in Washington, D.C., to address the challenges young Black men encounter.

“The lack of African American men in STEM is a byproduct of a failing system for African Americans in the overall school system,” Karl Reid, executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers, said. “If you’re trying to survive in the educational process and you don’t have access to the [rigorous] courses … it really doesn’t bode well that you’ll be on the pathway to a STEM degree.”

“Altering the Course” emphasizes the trend of low participation rates and gender differences in STEM pervades into the applicant pool for medical school.

According to the report, the top 10 colleges that produced the most Black male applicants to medical schools between 2010 and 2014 are: Morehouse College (148); University of Florida in Gainesville (129); Howard University in Washington, D.C. (92); Xavier University in New Orleans, La., (90); University of Maryland in College Park (81); Rutgers University-New Brunswick (78); University of South Florida (71); Florida State University (70); Oakwood University (67); University of Texas at Austin (63).

Four of these institutions are a Historically Black College or University.

In an opinion piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, physician Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, addresses the new report. She discusses the “enormous” value placed on MCAT scores, which could also be a factor in discouraging Black males from applying to medical school.

“At Morehouse School of Medicine, we purposefully accept students with a range of MCAT scores because we value cognitive diversity and see each day the limitations of the MCAT score in predicting success,” Rice said. “And despite accepting some students with MCAT scores below the national average, our students’ USMLE Step 1 first-time taker board pass rates and scores consistently meet or exceed the national average.”

She also suggests “funding and strategic collaborations in K-12 pipeline programs to attract and sustain more young Black males to STEM disciplines as we fiercely address stunning drop out, jobless and incarceration rates.”

In March,President Obama announced$240 million in new pledges to his initiatives toward STEM education, with $90 million allocated to enhance opportunities for underrepresented young people.

Rice’sperspectiveis in agreement with the solutions the report offers, which is greater access to information for scholarships and grants, pre-medical education programs, updates to medical school admission policies and practices and support networks.

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