The Medical Society of Sedgwick County received a national Profile of Excellence award this month for its work to increase the number of Black physicians practicing in the Wichita area. MSSC Executive Director Phillip Brownlee received the award at the annual conference of the American Association of Medical Society Executives, a membership organization of executives from county, state, national and international medical societies.
MSSC has been involved for many years in public health initiatives aimed at reducing health disparities. Its Project Access program coordinates donated health care to uninsured residents. MSSC is part of a coalition working to reduce maternal and infant deaths with a particular focus on communities of color. MSSC also has worked on food deserts and the prevention and management of chronic diseases among African Americans.
During the pandemic, MSSC decided another way it could help reduce health inequities was by working to increase the number of Black physicians. Research shows that Black patients, particularly Black men, tend to have better health outcomes if their physicians are Black.
MSSC began by raising awareness though articles in this newsletter. MSSC also hosted six screenings of the documentary “Black Men in White Coats,” followed by discussion groups. MSSC then created a $10,000 fund to help support the recruitment efforts, naming it after the Val Brown family and its three generations of Black physicians in Wichita.
MSSC also began connecting Black medical students and residents with practicing Black physicians — with the goal of both supporting them and helping connect them to our community. It sponsored a dinner for Black residents and medical students at the home of Drs. David and Caryn Bryant last fall. This February, it hosted a celebration of Black History Month and had 35 Black students, residents and physicians attend. MSSC President Maurice Duggins, MD, spoke at the event and is leading the outreach initiative.
As part of an outreach to younger students, MSSC physicians visited several local public schools with high populations of students of color. In April, MSSC partnered with the Family Medicine Interest Group at KUSM-Wichita to hold a “Doc for a Day” event for about 70 Black and Hispanic middle and high school students.
Because of how long it takes to become a physician, it could take many years to achieve MSSC’s goals, but there have been early signs of progress. Since MSSC began the initiative, the percent of MSSC members who are Black has increased from 2.5% to 3%.
MSSC also has increased awareness and understanding in the community and among its members, Brownlee said.
“We’ve communicated that we know there is a problem and are committed to addressing it,” he said. “And though we have a lot more work to do, our Black members, medical students and residents already feel more recognized and valued.”