MSSC seeking to increase number of Black physicians
There are significant health disparities facing African Americans, both nationally and in Kansas. Many disparities are related to social determinants, such as income and education levels and access to healthy foods and transportation. Systemic racism also can be a driving force behind inequities.
MSSC has been active in addressing some of the disparities. For example, MSSC helped form the Maternal Infant Health Coalition. MSSC’s Health ICT program has worked on food deserts and the prevention and management of chronic diseases among African Americans. Project Access helps uninsured residents receive specialty care. MSSC also advocates for policies that would reduce disparities, such as Medicaid expansion.
But one additional ways MSSC hopes to improve care and reduce disparities is to increase the number of African American physicians.
MSSC physicians of all ethnicities provide high-quality care. However, research shows that Black patients, particularly Black men, tend to have better health outcomes when they are seen by Black physicians.
What might be done to increase this number? MSSC’s primary focus is attracting and retaining more Black medical students and residents. This includes forming mentorships with current MSSC physicians.
“Our aim is for these residents and medical students to have great experiences in Wichita, which would make them more likely to want to practice medicine here,” said Maurice Duggins, MD, who is helping lead the effort. “A key to having a positive experience is making connections in the community, including with practicing physicians.”
Another approach will focus on “growing your own” physicians. MSSC physicians speak each year to high school classes about their profession and what it takes to become a doctor. MSSC is targeting more of those visits to high schools with higher minority populations.
MSSC also wants to start at younger grade levels, perhaps even elementary schools.
Regan DeHart, MD, said she spoke to a little Black girl a few years ago who said she didn’t know that people who look like her could be doctors.
“We need to start early,” DeHart said.