The Medical Profession Faces a Crisis of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

I was immersed in the intergalactic war unfolding in my novel as my daughter slept, head resting on my thigh. Less than one year ago, she curled up in the window seat with ease. Now her contorted legs dangled over the edge fighting for space and comfort.The flight attendant's voice boomed from the cabin intercom and yanked me from my literary escape. "Attention passengers, is there a doctor on the plane?" Attempting to remain inconspicuous, my head slowly swiveled to scan the cabin. Hesitant to answer the call, seconds that felt like minutes ticked off as I hoped some other doctor — any doctor — would step up. I had been here before, and I didn't feel like getting hassled on this flight today.The lack of minority representation in medicine is distressing, especially for African-American men. Statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that 542 black males entered medical school in 1978 compared to 515 who entered in 2014. This drop is alarming, considering the increase to nearly 180 schools accepting over 20,000 students annually during the intervening four decades. Despite the increased opportunities, fewer black men are applying to medical school.I am a product of one of those schools, graduating with a handful of black men and women in a class of more than 100 students. Decades later, I am now a trauma surgeon who has handled hundreds of emergencies, sometimes making life-altering decisions in seconds.Years ago, midway through a 15-hour trans-Pacific flight from Los Angeles to Australia, I was in a similar situation. Without hesitation I reached overhead and pressed my call button. Moments later I sat speechless as a flight attendant asked beneath furrowed brow and incredulous stare, "You're a doctor?"  Continue reading...

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