LMS President’s Message, July, 2020
Let’s Light the Spark
By Mamata Majmundar, MD
It takes decades to grow a physician and it often starts with a spark or inspiration as a child. My interests started, during my adolescent years, working in my father’s primary care office in the basement of our home. It is there I witnessed firsthand the rewarding relationships for caring for families and helping others. An initiative from the UK College of Medicine is leading an effort to provide this spark to a group that is underrepresented among physicians, African American men. The Black Men and White Coats 2021 Planning Committee, led by Anita Fernander, PhD., and including former LMS Vice President Vinnette Forde, M.D., are organizing the Black Men and White Coats Youth Summit on Feb. 6, 2021 at the First Baptist Church of Bracktown to ignite the interests of young African American males in medicine. The Lexington Medical Society and the Lexington Medical Society Foundation will help sponsor the event.
The Covid-19 pandemic and civil unrest we are experiencing are sparking conversations striving for human rights and social justice. It is encouraging to see these issues get this much needed attention. KMA President Brent Wright, wrote recently on this issue of discrimination and race in his piece on Medicine and Humanity, “Although progress has been made to address a number of disparities and social determinants of health, it is obvious that we still have a long way to go and a duty to act.” It is important to consider what action can be done to be part of crucial change desperately needed in our county. There is much opportunity to address the health disparities across racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One such action is to address is the lack of African American male physicians.
The low number of African American male physicians is not a new issue and has not improved for decades. According to an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) report the number of African American men enrolled in medicals schools in 1978 was 542. In 2014 this number was 515. African American women apply, in 2014 data, to medical school at a much higher rate than African American men, 62.2% vs. 37.8%. The National Bureau of Economic Research studied African-American men’s use of preventive health services when they had black and non-black doctors. The bureau reported in 2018 African American doctors could reduce African American men’s deaths from heart disease by 16 deaths per 100,000 every year. That would reduce the gap between black and white men by 19 percent.
The Black Men and White Coats (BMWC) is a national organization whose mission is to increase the number of African American men in the field of medicine through exposure, inspiration, and mentoring. One of the ways they accomplish their mission is by partnering with various organizations/programs to host summits that educate students, parents, teachers, and community leaders on what it takes to become a medical professional while allowing them to establish and expand their networks. The summits are free, held on a Saturday, and include anywhere from 300-500 attendees (at least half of which include students between the ages of 8 and 25}. Programming includes, but is not limited to a keynote, various workshops for students, parents, educators, and community members, as well as mentoring opportunities with clinicians. If you would like to raise what the LMS Foundation is able to support towards this event you can contribute to LMS Foundation by July 15th.
Supporting events like the Black Men and Whites Coats Youth Summit will not, on its own, solve the disparities that exists in healthcare, but it is a start. There could be a young boy whose spark is lit and grows to become a physician. That is an effort worth making a reality to eliminate disparities and improve the quality of care delivered to the individual patient.
 KMA Member News Alert: A Message from KMA President Brent Wright, M.D.: Medicine for Humanity. https://www.lexingtondoctors.org/2020/06/08/member-news-alert-june-5/
Published on June 5, 2020. Accessed on June 24, 2020.
 AAMC Report Shows Decline of Black Males in Medicine. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/aamc-report-shows-decline-black-males-medicine Published on September 27, 2020. Accessed on June 24, 2020.
 Altering the Course Black Males in Medicine, Association of American Medical Colleges, page 8: https://store.aamc.org/altering-the-course-black-males-in-medicine.html. Published 2015. Accessed on June 24, 2020.
 Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence from Oakland, National Bureau of Economic Research, page 19. https://www.nber.org/papers/w24787.pdf
Published 2018. Accessed on June 24, 2020.