‘Back To School’ Program Inspires A New Generation Of Minority Physicians

SPRINGFIELD – The American Medical Association (AMA) kicked off its 2005 ‘Doctors Back to School’ program recently at Lincoln Elementary School to inspire children to pursue careers in medicine. The program is part of an ongoing effort by the AMA’s Minority Affairs Consortium (MAC) to increase the number of underrepresented minority physicians in medical schools. 

Claudia Martorell M.D. talked to fourth, fifth and sixth graders about her decision to pursue medicine and her experiences as a physician. Martorell is an AMA member and infectious disease specialist practicing in West Springfield.

“I hope to serve as a realistic role model for students and encourage them to work hard in school,” said Martorell, noting that the student body of Lincoln Elementary School is primarily minority students. “It is important to visit schools that serve our minority communities to let students know that if they want to become physicians, they have the ability to do just that.”

“We want to encourage all children to pursue careers in medicine,” said Kevin McKinney, M.D., governing committee chair of MAC. “But, we must work extra hard to reach African-American, Hispanic-American and American Indian children because these populations are so underrepresented in medicine.”

Together the three groups make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population today and are expected to make up a third of the population within 30 years. But only 7{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of physicians and 6{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of medical school faculty members are from one of these underrepresented minorities.

Despite overall improvements in Americans’ health, minority Americans lag behind on nearly every health indicator, including health care coverage, life expectancy and disease rates. Studies indicate that minority physicians are more likely than white physicians to practice in underserved areas. They are also more likely to care for minority, poor, underinsured and uninsured people.

“Our country is becoming more diverse every day, and our profession needs to catch up if we want to provide the best possible care for our patients,” said McKinney. “Our ‘Doctors Back to School’ campaign is just one small step toward that goal. By calling attention to this growing need and sowing the seeds of interest in our young people, we hope we can grow the ranks of minority physicians.”