Former New York City mayor and former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg made headlines yesterday when he announced that he would be donating $100 million to black medical students at four historically black medical colleges and universities to help the next generation of providers pay for their education.
The money will go to about 800 medical students across the country, including those at Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine in Los Angeles, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Students will get scholarships worth up to $100,000 each.
Find out why this act of generosity is considered so groundbreaking.
Reducing Health Disparities
Encouraging more young people of color to pursue a career in medicine may help reduce health disparities among African Americans. Black people are more likely to die from nearly every disease or condition at all stages of life than their white counterparts. Black Americans are also 3.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans.
Many patients of color are subject to implicit bias when visiting the doctor’s office. Providers can be just as susceptible to cultural stereotypes and unconscious bias as the rest of the population. White providers have a history of underestimating pain in African American patients. Implicit bias has been shown to lead to lower quality treatment.
Patients of color may also not take the provider’s words at face value if they suspect they are being ignored or discriminated against.
A recent study from Harvard shows that, for black men, having a black doctor leads to more effective care. The study found that black men were more willing to undergo more invasive, preventive treatments when cared for by a black doctor. For many, being cared for by a person who sounds and looks like them can be an easy way to build trust between the two parties.
The Washington Post also found that black patients are less likely to face discrimination when cared for by a black doctor.
Why Bloomberg’s Donation Matters
The U.S. has a shortage of black providers, which only adds to these racial health disparities. According to data from 2018, African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population, yet only 5% of practicing physicians are black.
Michael Bloomberg made it clear that he believes having more black providers will improve the health of African American communities across the country. Speaking to the press, he said, “COVID-19 has been especially devastating for the black community, and the scarcity of black doctors practicing in black communities is one reason for it. More black doctors will mean more black lives saved and fewer health problems that limit economic opportunity.”
The high cost of medical school can dissuade young people who may be worried about debt from pursuing a career in this field, which can be a detriment to these communities.
According to the Brookings Institute, the net worth of a typical white family ($171,000) is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150), which shows just how difficult paying for medical school can be for some families of color.
Bloomberg went on to say, “The burden of student debt and lack of financial aid means that the shortage of black doctors could get even worse.”
The money is expected to extend scholarships to nearly every medical student currently enrolled and receiving financial aid over the next four years at the schools.
Who is Mike Bloomberg?
If you watched the Democratic primary debates earlier this year, you might remember Bloomberg’s brief appearance on the stage where he was eviscerated by then-candidate and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren for issuing non-disclosure agreements to disgruntled former female employees. In addition to running and owning Bloomberg news, he was also the mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, where he enacted the controversial stop-and-frisk policy that led to the over-policing of minority communities.
The former politician and owner of Bloomberg news has long been known for his philanthropic efforts. He created the Greenwood Initiative at the end of his run for president, a program that’s designed to increase the wealth of black Americans. It’s named after the once-prosperous neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, once known as Black Wall Street before the Tulsa Massacre of the 1920s. The massacre was one of the worst instances of racial violence in the history of the U.S.
Reducing the debt of black medical students is the first step towards achieving this goal of reducing health disparities among black people across the country.