Minorities in Med School: Part 3
In KUHF's series about low minority enrollments in Texas medical schools, we've reported that family finances and a lack of information about opportunities are the main reasons many minorities don't go to medical school. Discrimination doesn't appear to be a factor anymore. In the final installment of his series, Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell speaks with some minority students who overcame those obstacles.
Medical schools are so eager to recruit minority students they send recruiters out to find them and offer them inducements ranging from full scholarships to generous loans, grants and student housing. Even so, many high school and college students are still surprised to learn that medical school is possible for them. That's how it happened for Timberly Gilford, a Prairie View A&M graduate who's been accepted at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Timberly says until she met that UTMB recruiter, she had no idea she could be a doctor.
"Honestly I didn't. I knew I wanted to be a physician, but you know, as I was advancing in education it was looking slim. If it had not been for recruitment, or different people coming back, even graduates of Prairie View that came back who were medical students, I don't think that I would have gone, or applied."
Getting this information to students in high school and college is working. Joyce Keck is Mexican-American, and a third year student at Baylor College of Medicine, and she thinks young people need to know even earlier that they can be a doctor if they work hard, and have people around them to keep them focused.
"I think one thing that is important for us to remember, is if you talk to any medical student, under-represented minority or not, they will tell that there was some point in their life, when someone came along, whether it was a teacher, or a family member, or a community member, and said to them, if you want to be a doctor you can be. I think we need to remember that those voices need to come much earlier."
This intensive effort to recruit minorities begs the question: are they turning away qualified non-minorities to get more minorities? Dornechia George, who's African-American, is also in her third year at Baylor, and she says yes it is important to get the best students, but a diverse student body is just as important. She says students learn as much from each other as they do from their professors.
"If they come from a different culture they bring something more to the table, and I think that's the factor that's being considered when you're looking at increasing minority enrollment. It's increasing the culture in a classroom. It's increasing the ability of patients to see themselves reflected in their caretakers."
Despite all their successes in bringing in minorities, federal funding for minority recruitment programs at public universities and medical schools has been cut to virtually zero after the current fiscal year. A spokesman at UTMB Galveston says if they can't get new funding from somewhere, the programs may be cut back or eliminated. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.