On Sept. 3, Mike Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, announced a donation of $100 million to the nation’s four historically Black medical schools: Howard University’s College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
Howard University reported that Mike Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies are making a $32.8 million donation to the College of Medicine – the largest donation to the College in its history.
Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University, welcomed the gift.
“Healthcare 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,” Frederick said in a statement.
“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,” he continued.
The dean of Howard University’s College of Medicine, Dr. Hugh Mighty, said reducing loan debt will allow students to look more widely at opportunities they may have ignored before, which include working in impoverished communities.
He said Black communities across the country have less access to quality healthcare, affecting them disproportionately with different illnesses.
“Students choose to go into professions where they can pay their debt back quickly. But now with debt being reduced they may look to choose a specialty that is more beneficial to the community,” he said.
According to Howard, the College of Medicine will determine the eligibility of the students currently enrolled and receiving financial aid for scholarships up to $100,000. Students currently in years two, three or four of medical school will receive retro-active scholarships, meaning that they can receive up to $100,000 in support regardless of whether they are graduating in 2021, 2022 or 2023.
Mighty said Bloomberg’s financial gift will open a door for Black physicians to go into predominantly Black communities where they can both serve and create a healthier community.
Bloomberg’s goal is to improve the health and wellness of Black communities during the pandemic. The donation will help increase the number of Black doctors in the U.S. by reducing the debt burden of approximately 800 medical students.
A Stanford University study paired Black men in Oakland with either Black or non-Black doctors. Men seen by Black physicians appeared more likely to engage with them and be advised for preventive services including screenings and immunizations.
The study also said Black physicians wrote more detailed notes about their Black patients in comparison to white physicians. One step to reduce the distrust that Black communities have with the healthcare system is building a more diverse workforce.
Based on the latest data, white doctors make up 56 percent of the physician workforce with Asian doctors at 17 percent. Just under 6 percent are Hispanic doctors. Only 5 percent are Black doctors.
Dr. Marjorie Innocent serves as senior director of health programs for the NAACP. She said in order to optimize the health and well-being of African Americans, people must invest in the training of Black doctors.
“Medical training needs to be improved so that they are actually trained and ready to provide care to African Americans and others,” Innocent said.