Three HBCU medical schools out-ranked Ivy Leaguers

Howard University, Morehouse College, and Meharry Medical School topped a recent national study for having a strong social mission as part of its medical teachings.

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities institutions out-ranked Yale, Harvard, and Stanford Universities in graduating physicians who practice primary care and work in underserved areas, and recruiting and graduating young, minority physicians, The Social Mission of Medication Education: Ranking the Schools, revealed.

The study, the first of its kind, took a look at 141 of the nation’s medical schools and their ability to meet a social mission. It was conducted by George Washington University and pinpointed where graduates are and what type of medicine they actually practice, among other findings.

The study found that schools with substantial National Institutes of Health research funding generally produced fewer primary care physicians and physicians practicing in underserved areas, which yielded lower social mission scores overall. Additionally, schools in progressively smaller cities produced more primary care physicians and doctors who practiced in underserved communities but graduated fewer minorities.

Wayne Riley, president of Meharry Medical College, told the Defender that his Nashville school stresses to students the importance of practicing primary care in areas that need it. He explained that the new health reform bill signed by President Barack Obama means the college’s and its physician graduates’ work is just beginning.

“Medical schools are not preparing enough doctors in primary care,” said Riley. He explained that there are currently 32 million people who don’t have medical insurance but will have it by the end of the decade. For him, that means a shortage of 60,000-100,000 primary care physicians.

“Recruiting minority students and prioritizing the training of primary care physicians and promoting practice in underserved areas, medical school will help deliver the health care that Americans desperately need,” said Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D., a professor of health policy at George Washington University and co-author of the study.

For the purposes of the study, that’s considered social mission.

Candice Chen, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at George Washington University and the study’s other co-author, said it wasn’t a surprise that Howard, Morehouse and Meharry ranked as it did in the study.

“The minority population is growing,” she told the Defender. “There’s evidence minorities will seek out minority physicians.”

Underrepresented minorities, including African Americans, made up 28 percent of the general population in 2006 but accounted for only 15 percent of medical students and 8 percent of physicians in practice, according to the study.

Riley said the study shines a positive light on the work his school is doing, and called for it and other HBCUs to be embraced more.

“Getting recognized for something we’ve been doing for a 135 years is very satisfying and speaks to how important these institutions are to the nation, and we should be supported more,” said Riley.

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