Marc Nivet, the chief diversity officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, recently spoke out about the decrease in black male medical students. At the Howard University Symposium on United States Healthcare, Nivet took the stage and startled audience members, when he told them that fewer black males were enrolled in medical school last year than 32 years ago.
Nivet explained to the audience that recent studies have shown that female students make up nearly 2/3rds of the shrinking population of black medical school students.
“This positive trend for racial and ethnic minority women is not mirrored in their male counterparts,” Nivet stated. “Black or African American males are applying to, being accepted to, and matriculating into medical school in diminishing numbers, which speaks to the increasing need for medical schools to institute plans and initiatives aimed at strengthening the pipeline.”
Nivet suggests pipeline programs as a possible solution. Pipeline programs are designed to advance people who may otherwise slip through the cracks. Oftentimes, intelligent students in poor communities don’t get the same opportunities as wealthy ones. When doctoral colleges institute pipeline programs for black students, they’re helping to improve the number of black males who attend medical school.
For example, medical schools can adopt the Step-Up pipeline program. The Step-Up pipeline provides short-term education options for underrepresented persons. Underrepresented persons are defined by their minority status and/or disadvantaged backgrounds. These bright young kids are invited to eight weeks of summer research camp, when they successfully complete the eleventh grade.
Medical school is difficult to get into – for everyone. But, for someone who is poor, or has been overlooked, it can be even more daunting. It’s important that teachers, counselors, principals and more work hard to pinpoint which students are showing an interest or ability in health sciences – especially when it comes to male black students.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 years 15 years 20 years to intervene in effective ways to insure that we have the talent necessary to come to our institutions,” said Nivet. “If we don’t effectively intervene in this pipeline and hold our institutions and ourselves accountable for finding the talent that we know exists then we have failed those 32 million people soon to be enfranchised and we have failed ourselves.”
Caribbean medical schools, like AUA College of Medicine, have a predominantly black student population, but encourage diversity overall. This college makes the admissions process incredibly easy for all students, not just black ones. There’s no ethnic focus, but instead an overall openness, that draws in students and helps them work their way to graduation.
In general, admissions can be improved by improving college/student relationships. Colleges are encouraged to implement policies that encourage diversity, as well as discourage any sort of racism, favoritism, gender-bias or other discriminatory practice.
Pipelines should be in place in order to help discern which students are meant to be doctors. Oftentimes, people of color are overlooked. Perhaps they come from a poor or difficult background. Perhaps they’re victims of discrimination. Whatever the reason, Nivet urges schools to consider the implications of allowing this decrease in black medical students to continue. In his speech, he warns that this could result in fewer doctors in underserved communities, whereas improving pipelines could result in more doctors in more communities.
As Nivet continues his goal of spreading awareness about this issue, everyday people are encouraged to spread his message of growth and pipelines.