By Alexis McCowan, Howard University News Service
On September 3, 2020, former New York City mayor, Mike Bloomberg announced a donation of $100 million to the nation’s four historically Black medical schools. Howard University’s College of Medicine was one of them. The others are Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University University of Medicine and Science.
Howard University reported that Mike Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies are making a $32.8 million donation to the College of Medicine. This gift is the largest donation to the College of Medicine in its history.
Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University welcomed the gift.
“Healthcare disparities exist for a myriad of reasons related to systemic infrastructural issues, not the least of which is the dearth of Black doctors. Black doctors with cultural competency are a major part of the solution, but their path is often hampered by a compromised financial situation,” said Frederick in a statement.
“This gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies is the first stone dropped into a calm lake of opportunity and promise. The ripple effects that it will have on the lives of our students and our programs will carry on for generations,” he continued.
The dean of Howard University’s College of Medicine, Dr. Hugh Mighty said that reducing loan debt will allow students to look more widely at opportunities they may have ignored before, which include working in impoverished communities.
He said Black communities across the country have less access to quality healthcare, affecting them disproportionately from different illnesses.
“Students choose to go into professions where they can pay their debt back quickly. But now with debt being reduced they may look to choose a speciality that is more beneficial to the community.”
According to Howard, the College of Medicine will determine the eligibility of the students currently enrolled and receiving financial aid for scholarships up to $100,000. Students currently in years two, three, and four of medical school will receive retro-active scholarships, meaning that they can receive up to $100,000 in support regardless of whether they are graduating in 2021 or 2023.
Mighty said that Bloomberg’s financial gift is opening a door for Black physicians to go into predominantly Black communities, serve, and create a healthier community.
Bloomberg’s goal is to improve the health and wellness of Black communities during the pandemic. This donation will help increase the number of Black doctors in the U.S. by reducing the debt burden of approximately 800 medical students.
A Stanford University study paired Black men in Oakland, Calif., with either Black or non-Black doctors. The men seen by Black physicians appeared more likely to engage with them and be advised for preventive services including screenings and immunizations.
The study also said Black physicians wrote more detailed notes about their Black patients as opposed to White physicians. One step to reducing the distrust that Black communities have with the healthcare system is building a more diverse workforce.
Based on the latest data, white doctors make up 56 percent of the physician workforce, with Asian doctors at 17 percent. Just under 6 percent are Hispanic doctors. Only 5 percent are Black doctors.
Dr. Marjorie Innocent is the senior director of health programs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She said in order to optimize the health and wellbeing of African-Americans, people must invest in the training of Black doctors.
“Medical training needs to be improved so that they are actually trained and ready to provide care to African-Americans and others,” said Innocent.