I was recently surprised to learn that fewer black men are applying to and attending medical school today than in 1978. A 2015 Association of American Medical Colleges report found that in 1978, 1,410 black men applied to medical school and 542 enrolled. While only 1,337 applied and 515 enrolled in 2014. These numbers are interesting considering more black men are attending college, and the number of other minorities and black women applying to medical school have increased.

Why does it matter if there are more black male doctors, you may wonder? There are a number of reasons. But the primary ones have to do with perception of care and the patient-physician relationship. Anecdotal evidence and research indicate that people are more satisfied and compliant with physicians when they can identify with them. This suggests that having physicians that patients relate to can result in better health outcomes for them. The AAMC report also indicated that physician diversity can mean greater access to care for minority, low-income and non-English-speaking patients. 

In a city with a diverse population like that of Memphis, Tennessee—where more than 50 percent of the population is African-American, this is important. And as a health care leader, it is my desire and responsibility to make sure we’re providing the best possible care for all of our patients. That includes hiring the brightest and best providers for our communities. Having physicians and licensed providers that all of our patients can relate to is important to accomplishing these goals. So what can we do to change this narrative?

The AAMC report suggested a number of factors that could help improve opportunities for minority males and engage black men and their communities. Some of these include providing positive mentors or role models and financial assistance for minority students.

I’m proud to share that Baptist Memorial Health Care is partnering with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the Baptist College of Health Sciences, the Bluff City Medical Society, the NAACP Memphis Branch, the National Association of Health Services Executives, the National Civil Rights Museum and the Memphis Medical Society to host the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit. This summit will introduce minority students to local black medical professionals and potential mentors, as well as help them access financial and other resources to help them pursue careers in medicine and science. It is our hope that we can inspire and facilitate the next generation of medical professionals in Memphis.

For more information about the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit or to register a student, please visit https://www.baptistonline.org/events/black-men-in-white-coats.

Jason Little photo
Jason Little
President/Chief Executive Officer
Baptist Memorial Health Care