The Conversation - America needs more Black doctors

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Black people represent about 13% of the U.S. population, but make up 5.7% of all doctors.

That gap is more than just a statistical anomaly – it helps contribute to racial health disparities that have long dogged Black Americans and been studied by Tufts University community health professor Benjamin Chrisinger.

“Modern research shows that the lack of Black doctors helps explain why about 70% of Black people don’t trust their doctors, and why Black people tend to die younger than their white peers,” Chrisinger writes.

The gaps in racial representation have a deep past. Chrisinger found a unique way to explore that history by examining directories published by the American Medical Association that, in the early years of the 20th century, insisted on noting down when a doctor was Black.

With that information, Chrisinger created a digitized dataset of the 1906 directory and found that of the 41,828 physicians, only 746 were Black – or 1.8%.

Since the end of legal segregation in the U.S. , some progress has been achieved. But the gaps still remain – and the health of Black Americans remains at stake.

“The evidence is clear,” Chrisinger wrote, “America needs more Black doctors.”

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Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

Black students at Meharry Medical College, in 1915. Heritage Art/Getty Images

Only 1.8% of US doctors were Black in 1906 – and the legacy of inequality in medical education has not yet been erased

Benjamin Chrisinger, Tufts University

Increased mistrust of the US medical profession and higher mortality rates are two consequences of the lack of Black doctors.

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