#BMIM | Black Males In Medicine: The Introduction

 In Voices of Diversity

On Monday, November 27, 2017, Twitter will (hopefully) be swarmed with Black men who are physicians proudly sharing their journeys, struggles, victories, lessons learned and advice for the next generation of black males aspiring to fulfill their dream of becoming a doctor. The reason for this is simple: there is a narrative that Black men are “missing in action” in medicine. Yes, Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine revealed that the number of Black males applying to and matriculating in medical school in 2014 was less than 1978. However, there is more to the story. The backdrop is America  the continuous devaluation of life, in particular that of the Black Male. Often, the imagery expressed is not positive. Instead, it is a potpourri of song lyrics and under-developed movie characters, blended with negative headlines, then flavored with an overtone of stereotypes.  

The reality is that we have had a decline in the number of Black men applying to medical schools despite the expansion in the number of medical schools, and in with an unaccounted increase in size of the medical schools. Digging deeper, we have undervalued the education system in K-12 and increased the financial and artificial barriers to education at the collegiate level. We have over-represented the value of standardized testing while under-preparing students for the rigors of an advanced education in science technology engineering and math (STEM).

For current Black Men in Medicine, it is time that we do our share, with the foreknowledge that we are already extended beyond what is expected of our non-Black peers. We know that the pressures on you are high and the expectations of you are low. We know that you are tasked to be more yet valued, and therefore supported, less. That said, it is our time to step up and do more, even if we are stretched thin. We must support, we must mentor, we must educate. The success of our next generation of Black Men in Medicine is dependent on what we do now.

For the future Black Men in Medicine, this point cannot be stressed enough: we need you on the front lines of health care. We need your presence. We need you committing to improving the health of our nation and the health of our people. We need you in the clinics, the operating rooms and the emergency departments. We need you in the medical schools and the administrative offices. We need your presence. We need your experience and expertise. We need you improving the health of our country and our community.

For those who want to support, it is time for all to acknowledge the education and achievement gap that exists in our country, and empower our educators to close said gap. It is time for us to support our teachers and schools, including the often abandoned urban and rural schools. It is time to tell our medical schools that we expect more from them. We need support in the pre-health advising offices and the medical school admissions committees. It is time to mentor, noting that Black men need mentors of all races and genders to narrow this achievement gap. We need the right people giving the right advice to help develop young Black health professionals.

For those who are naysayers, we hope that you acknowledge data. Minority providers are more likely to take care of the sick, and those on Medicare and Medicaid. Acknowledge that minorities are more likely to practice in underserved communities. Our education system is subpar and what we’ve invested in STEM severely lags behind other countries. Compound that with the fragmented education system, emphasis on standardized testing a general apathy towards underperforming and densely populated minority classrooms, we have a perfect setup for unrealistic expectations with under-resourced education systems.

For those who do not understand, being a Black man in this country is hard. The playing field is not level, and the starting point is far behind our non-black counterparts. Further, black men have faced substantial  barriers designed to obscure success. This is not an “us-versus-them” mentality. Being pro-#BlackMenInMedicine does not mean you are against others interested in pursuing careers in medicine. It means that you support all going into medicine, and you recognize that some encounter systemic obstacles that others may not face.

For the Black Men in Medicine, it is time for us to share our story. Yes, the world expects us to be perfect and to be flawed at the same time. We ARE NOT the image that our country typically paints of us as Black men. We are educated, we are successful, we are professionals. We have risen above the fray. We are not the stereotype, nor do we perpetuate it. Most importantly, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The youth need us to be the mentors and role models that we had. Society needs us to be #BlackExcellence personified. In the midst of these responsibilities, we must remain true to ourselves. As we ascend we must not pull up the ladder, instead we must leave it down and shout out instructions for those to successfully make the climb. If necessary we must reach down or climb down the ladder to help others up. We must be present, active and engaged. We must be a pillar of respect and a beacon of hope. Otherwise, the fruits of our labors will only have fed ourselves and not enriched others. We must be more than ourselves at this time because it is what is needed. We must.

With that, over the next few days you will see a collection of posts from the Tour for Diversity In Medicine mentors as we share our stories, our victories and our struggles. We ask you join the conversation and use #BlackMenInMedicine to be a voice of support. For those Black men in medicine, we ask you to share your stories. However, we ask more of you; we ask you to mentor, we ask you to advise and we ask you to be there for the next generation.

– Alden –

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