How California can add black doctors to the healthcare system

In summary

Many Californian blacks say they were treated unfairly or felt disrespectful from a health care worker because of their race or ethnicity. A recent study found that increasing the number of black doctors is the best solution.

Guest comment written by

Wynton Sims

Wynton Sims is a medical student at UC San Francisco School of Medicine.

I still remember one of the first times I helped treat a black patient.

During my clinical year at UCSF School of Medicine I did my OB-GIN rotation and did what any other healthcare provider would have done. I tried to put the patient at ease. I asked her questions and listened carefully to his answers. It felt like a normal conversation where I was trying to gather information and provide health advice in equal measure.

But as I was leaving the clinic that day, wearing my white coat, a black woman from the office ran after me to tell me how proud she was and how important it was for her to see someone like me learn to be a doctor.

It should come as no surprise that black Californians want more black providers in our healthcare system. Black doctors have been few and far between in California, making up about 3% of the state’s total doctors for decades.

What is becoming clearer with each passing year, however, is the cost of this lack of representation. A recent study by the California Health Care Foundation found that 1 in 3 black people in California say they have been treated unfairly by a healthcare professional because of their race or ethnicity. One in four black Californians completely avoided seeking assistance because he felt it would be disrespectful.

Black patients have the same basic healthcare system expectations as everyone else, the foundation’s survey found. They want providers who listen to them (98%), spend time answering their questions (97%), and discuss and personalize their health goals (93%).

Black Californians also agree on an obvious way to make the health system work better: 80% say it is important to increase the number of black doctors, nurses and other health workers.

But as the old saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see.

A UCLA study last year found that the national share of doctors who are black men has remained essentially the same since 1940. The question remains: How can we change these abysmal numbers?

As a black student at one of California’s most selective medical schools, I’m the exception that proves the rule. Both of my parents were health professionals in Mississippi. I chose UCSF because I wanted to study at a school committed to cultivating a diverse student body and retaining and supporting black students.

However, it still took six months of clinical rotations before working under a black doctor. That was the first time I had that essential feeling of building a professional relationship with someone who looks like me, who is interested in what I hope to achieve and who is deeply involved in my success.

As I continue to work in clinics and learn my craft, I think every student, patient and provider is looking for the opportunity to see and be seen. It promotes authentic connections and real exchanges of information that are at the heart of healthcare. It is something any good doctor can do.

To do it right, especially for black patients, we need more black doctors.

The Urban Institute released a report this year outlining some of the most successful policies for creating a diverse workforce in health care, from holistic pathways and admissions programs to diversity initiatives and reducing the financial burden of health care. high school education.

For me, what it comes down to is money and mentoring, which are two of the biggest hurdles for black students hoping to start and finish medical school. Financial and academic support must start early, right from elementary school, and continue through high school, college and even the medical school application process, which in itself is a considerable expense.

Mentorship programs are just as important in closing what seems like an endless loop: We all want more black doctors, to inspire and guide us, but it’s difficult because unfortunately there are so few.

There are more of us on the way, though, and we’ll do our best to provide the care black Californians deserve.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *