Will New Medical Schools Make a Difference in Graduating More Black Doctors?

Two colleges are joining an exclusive group of historically Black universities with medical schools. Xavier University in New Orleans and Morgan State University in Baltimore announced that they are building new schools of medicine. These are the first new medical schools affiliated with historically Black universities in nearly 50 years. 

With these two new schools, the total number of historically Black institutions with medical schools will increase to six, joining Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. 

The six schools constitute a small portion of the 172 total medical schools with predominantly white student bodies. Fewer than one in 10 medical school graduates are Black, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  

Several predominantly white universities like the University of Florida and Georgia State University are focusing on graduating more Black doctors over the next few decades to improve access and equitable health care. First-year enrollments in medical school by Black students in the 2021–22 academic year rose by 21 percent, from 2,117 to 2,562, compared to the previous year, according to AAMC data. However, the percentage of Black medical students and Black doctors hovers around five percent, which is well below the 13.6 percent of the U.S. population that identifies as Black or African American. 

Morgan State University announced last year that it would open a college of osteopathic medicine in Baltimore on the site of an old hospital complex. Once accreditation and approvals are secured, the new school plans to enroll about 90 students in its first class in the Fall of 2024. Within three to four years, the school expects to double the class size to about 180 students. 

The school will be the first osteopathic medical school at a historically Black university and go by the name Maryland College of Osteopathic Medicine. The school’s founding dean, Dr. John Sealey, a cardiothoracic surgeon, believes the school will have a big impact on the Baltimore community. “The school is uniquely positioned to produce a new generation of Black medical doctors who will understand the healthcare needs of Baltimore residents,” said Sealey. “We want to change the way the community accesses healthcare and get them to see their primary care doctors regularly rather than go to the emergency room for treatment.” 

Xavier is partnering with Ochsner Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in the Gulf South region, to establish a joint medical school. “Our dedication to preparing more Black healthcare professionals addresses longstanding inequities within the nation’s healthcare system and builds the healthcare workforce of the future,” said Dr. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University. 

To create the new medical school, Ochsner and Xavier will form a non-profit organization, develop a new curriculum and use facilities, staff and administrative processes from both institutions. The new school will be governed by a board of directors nominated by Xavier and Ochsner, with each institution appointing an equal number of directors. The joint initiative builds on a long-standing partnership between Ochsner and Xavier that dates to the early 1980s, when Ochsner and Xavier’s College of Pharmacy came together to offer more clinical training sites for pharmacy students. Xavier’s College of Pharmacy is the oldest in Louisiana and has for years been among the nation’s top schools graduating Black students with pharmacy degrees.

The board is still developing its plans for the medical school, which is anticipated to open in the next three to five years with about 60 students in its first class. Xavier remains among one of the top 10 schools sending African American graduates to medical schools, said Dr. Marguerite Giguette, interim provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Xavier. “Xavier’s rigorous pre-medical program for its undergraduates prepares them for success in medical school and a pre-medicine office provides support for students who are interested in the various steps along the pathway to medical school.”

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