Making health professions more inclusive

According to the Association of Medical Colleges, or AAMC, blacks and African Americans comprise 13 percent of the nation, but only 4 percent of the physician workforce. In order to improve percentages of underrepresented minorities in the healthcare field, AAMC has partnered with Rutgers University on an innovative solution.

TRANSCRIPT

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, blacks and African-Americans comprise 13% of the nation but only 4% of the physician workforce.

In order to improve the percentages of under-represented minorities in the healthcare field, AAMC has partnered with Rutgers University on an innovative solution.

Reporter Michael Hill has the story.

Teenagers in the middle of summer in hot pursuit of exploring their passion in the New Jersey Medical School's SMART Program, or Science, Medicine, and Related Topics.

I came in with, I guess, sort of a rough basis of anatomy and physiology.

Right.

And I was able to expand while I was here.

Like, I've learned so much.

13-year-old Angelica Rivera discovered what she wants to dive into.

I had an idea of marine biology or forensics, and now I'm, like, deciding like, 'Oh, I want to go in marine biology.'

This is a five-week program that thrusts these teenagers into real-world medical problems so they can come up with real-world medical solutions so they can get a real sense of what it is to be doctors and scientists.

I'm in love with this program.

I feel like this program gives you such exposure to the medical field and it shows you that you can do whatever you want.

And it's very hands on, and I'm a hands-on learner.

The hands-on program sends these teens on field trips and exposes them to biological lab work.

90-plus teens, most of them African-American, Asian, and Latino, a large number from Newark, and that's deliberate, says Newark native Mercedes Padilla-Register, who recruits these 7th through 12th graders.

You know, when people hear that you're from Newark, especially those from outside of Newark, they say, 'Oh, you don't speak like you're from Newark.'

So they don't expect much from you.

And I like to believe the total opposite.

Dr. Maria Soto-Greene is the vice dean of the medical school.

She says this is about creating more diversity in the medical profession.

That's why diversity matters, because we do know that individuals are most comfortable in terms of caring for the communities from which they come, and that our body of literature has supported.

Dr. Soto-Greene says it was an assistant dean who influenced her to pursue medicine, and she's doing the same, especially now that the Association of American Medical Colleges says the number of black males in a physician pipeline is at 1978 levels.

She says intervention needs to happen as early as third grade.

And it needs to be with positive role models and it needs to be in an educational environment, even if it's a school that doesn't have resources where the teachers themselves and the counselors are not indirectly, intentionally, or unintentionally, limiting a child's ability.

These students say they welcome the encouragement from here and at home.

You always need that one person to believe in you, and my mother has been that one person.

She always pushes me to be the best that I can be and she's behind me 100%, no matter what.

And so is the SMART Program.