New Direction Needed To Boost Number Of Minorities In Medical Professions

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Whilefinding a physician is "relatively simple, finding one who understands thepatient -- and who can be understood by the patient in return -- is the toughertask when language and culture stand in the way," an East Brunswick Home News Tribune editorial states. The editorialadds, "Familiarity breeds comfort, comfort creates trust, and trustinevitably leads to better care and health." However, "it hasn't beenso easy to close that divide despite the best efforts to grow the numbers ofminority physicians, notably those who are black and Latino," theeditorial says.

Only 3.5% of U.S. physiciansare black, while blacks make up 12.3% of the U.S. population, according to a2004 survey from the American Association of MedicalColleges. There isa similar gap among Hispanic doctors and the Hispanic population in the U.S., accordingto the editorial. In 1975, the proportion of medical school students who wereminority students peaked at 8.1%, though that percentage has "leveled offand ... might have fallen," the editorial says.

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According to the editorial, "Part of the problem is undoubtedly thatmedical schools aren't seeing enough qualified minority applicants knocking ontheir doors. Maybe that's because, at least in part, young black and Latinostudents aren't encouraged to enter the medical field, or perhaps it is due toa lack of suitable pre-med programs and guidance offered in high schools whereminority students happen to be concentrated."

The editorial states, "Either way, a new direction is in order" (East Brunswick Home News Tribune, 12/19).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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