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o many in the medical profession, it’s a public health crisis in the making: While African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, only about 6 percent of doctors are black. And evidence shows that patients feel better about the quality of their health care when their doctors look like them.

To address this workforce issue, a group of young doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals started a traveling program called Tour for Diversity that goes all over the U.S. to meet with young people of color who are interested in health career paths. STAT talked to some of the leaders of Tour for Diversity at a recent stop in Winston-Salem, N.C., about some of the challenges they have faced in achieving their goals of becoming doctors and dentists. Here’s what they had to say.

On treating people of color

Dr. Ciera Sears, an internal medicine resident physician in Dayton, Ohio, talks about what it’s like when patients of color see her for the first time and how she establishes a relationship with them.

On overcoming racism

Dr. Love Anani, an emergency physician in Nashville, Tenn., discusses the pain of racism and feelings of inadequacy.

On using ethnicity as a strength

Dr. Italo Brown, an emergency medicine resident physician from New York City, recounts his experience treating a young, African-American man with gunshot wounds in the emergency room.

On being natural

Shayla Wilson, a dental student at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tenn., talks about the debates surrounding her dreadlocks when she was applying for dental school.

On being a ‘real doctor’

Dr. Brandon Henry, a sports medicine fellow in Waco, Texas, recalls when patients dismissed him, saying they want a “real doctor.”

On having a role model

Dr. Kameron Leigh Matthews, a family physician in Washington, D.C., talks about having a role model in her father, a physician who treated people in their community.

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  • What an amazing series, thank you so much for sharing. It makes me proud of the work my organization does to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of hematology…

  • Great to hear about this initiative and these doctors’ perspectives on parts of their medical journey as people of color.

  • First of all we need to support the medical Community as a whole. However there is so much racism within the medical profession and there is limited support for the professionals who experience it. We all need to support one another and I wish there were more people and organizations to help ensure that all physicians can be treated fairly.

  • Wonderful program. African American doctors were discriminated against for decades from entry to medical schools to obtaining hospital privileges. Improved circumstances followed the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and the passage of Medicare in 1965. Yet in 2006 African Americans constituted 12.3% of the US population with only 2.6% of African American Doctors. The numbers of doctors (6%) have improved. The Diversity Program is to be applauded.

  • Why were the female doctors the only ones with ads? It made me not watch their videos. Whilst the male docs videos played right away. Ridiculous.

    • I had a different experience – ads played on two male and one female video. I went back and watched them again and the ads changed. It looks like they rotate.

  • We should encourage all people to make the most of their potential, and as a society ensure that each person lives in a safe neighborhood with good schools to help them reach that potential. That being said, to suggest that we have too few doctors of color because the population is 12% black and only 6% of doctors are black is nonsensical. If any group is overrepresented in medicine, this would mean we should get fewer of those people.

    • You are misinterpreting the statistics David. All other things being equal, any given profession’s workforce should reflect roughly that society’s population. So if 50% of a population is female, roughly 50% of the teachers, police, CEOs, etc should be female. Unless there is an outside force (e.g. sexism, cultural norms) that influence female careers. If 12% of the population is black, 12% of the medical field should be black, anything less represents outside forces (e.g. history of racism and oppression) at work.

  • As a volunteer on a Native American reservation, I was struck by the fact that all but one of the physicians working at the local hospital were African American. When we took the children on field trips off the res to cities like Phoenix and Tuscon, the little ones would often make comments like “There’s a doctor” when they saw a black man or woman. They thought that all black adults were physicians! Keep touring for diversity! All of our children need to see doctors of all races and ethnicities and religions and genders.

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