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The Howard University College of Medicine announced that it has received a $32.8 million donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help ease the financial burden of current medical students.

Mike Bloomberg teamed with university officials Thursday to announce the grant — the largest-ever gift to the College of Medicine and part of a $100 million initiative for the nation’s four historically Black medical schools over the next four years.

The donation will assist approximately 800 medical students, many of whom face increased financial pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Health care disparities exist for a myriad of reasons related to systemic infrastructural issues, not the least of which is the dearth of black doctors. Black doctors with cultural competency are a major part of the solution, but their path is often hampered by a compromised financial situation,” said Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard president. “This gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies is the first stone dropped into a calm lake of opportunity and promise. The ripple effects that it will have on the lives of our students and our programs will carry on for generations.”

While only five percent of practicing physicians in the U.S. are Black, data shows that Black patients — who are twice as likely to die from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as white Americans — have better outcomes when treated by Black doctors.

“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,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former three-term mayor of New York City. “More Black doctors will mean more Black lives saved and fewer health problems that limit economic opportunity. But right now, the burden of student debt and lack of financial aid means that the shortage of Black doctors could get even worse. During my campaign for president, I proposed a set of bold policies — which we called the Greenwood Initiative — to increase generational wealth among Black families and shrink the racial wealth gap.”

This first investment of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative also represents a new effort to increase generational wealth among Black families while addressing systemic underinvestment in Black communities.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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