Why We Must Increase Doctors of Color to Address Health Disparities

Diverse Doctors

Right now, just 5% of all physicians are Black, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. This is despite the fact that Black people make up more than 13% of the total U.S. population, according to the association’s study, and numerous other studies highlight the benefits of having a diverse workforce in providing quality health care. 

Increasing the number of Black physicians isn’t just important for creating better workplaces, it’s also critical to reducing health inequities. However, a NPR article noted that there were fewer Black men in medical school in 2014 than in 1978 an unfortunate downward trend as  Black men remain underrepresented in the nation’s medical schools.

That’s why it is great to see efforts like those of Tik Tok which recently announced that it’s investing $10 million in 10 schools serving marginalized communities to increase the number of medical professionals of color. This includes Xavier University of Louisiana, Tougaloo College, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina A&T University, South Carolina State University, Laredo College, University of South Dakota, Florida A&M University, Delaware State University and Virginia Union University.

“We believe investing in the next generation of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous doctors, nurses, pediatricians, surgeons, and other essential health care workers is one of the best ways to invest in the future of America,” Tik Tok noted in a statement

This is a big step forward in the larger effort to reduce health disparities, an issue Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, is passionate about. In particular, Smith has focused on one of the biggest health disparities — prostate cancer. Currently, Black men are more than 75% more likely than white men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and they’re twice as likely to die from the disease. 

Earlier this year, Smith announced a new effort with the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) to reduce the deaths of cancer among Black men by supporting the creation of the Smith Polygenic Risk Test for Prostate Cancer, which will be a non-invasive and early detection test that can identify a man’s lifetime prostate cancer risk. 

“As African American men are at an increased risk for being diagnosed or dying from prostate cancer, understanding their risk profile and applying this knowledge earlier with strategic detection, care, and decisions about cancer risk management is of utmost importance to address health inequity in the U.S.,” Smith said about his work with the PCF. “This is why I made a personal commitment to help accelerate research, encourage African American men to participate in the study and subsequent testing, and develop new detection strategies that have the power to transform how we diagnose and treat this disease and help save lives.”

Learn more about Smith’s efforts to reduce racial healthcare disparities.