This has been a difficult year. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all our lives, with many of us worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on our health, families, and ability to do our work. Events that have unfolded in 2020 have highlighted racial inequities that persist within our culture. As a school of medicine, we must be concerned that race continues to be one of the greatest predictors of health outcomes. We acknowledge that structural, cultural, and economic barriers exist that must be overcome in order to create a healthcare system that provides equitable care for all.
Even as our country grows more diverse, the medical profession is slow to follow, with only a small percentage of physicians and practitioners being Black, Native American and Hispanic/Latino. As a primary producer of South Carolina’s healthcare workforce, the UofSC School of Medicine Columbia (SOMC) must lead by example. This starts with enhancing diversity and inclusion within our own walls – across our MD and graduate programs. Although the percentage of under-represented minority students at the UofSC SOMC is near the national average, and the percentage of under-represented minority faculty (basic science plus clinical faculty) is above the national average, it’s imperative to do better. Achieving a healthcare workforce that proportionately reflects the population of our state and the nation is a top priority. To recruit more students of color and from underrepresented communities, a multi-faceted approach is required.
We are committed to: 1) improving our pipeline programs that expose more students to the possibility of a career in medicine during their middle and high school years; 2) increasing our curricular content on social determinants of health, health disparities, cultural awareness, and the impact of racism on health; and 3) taking active steps to understand and improve the culture of inclusion within our school. It is equally important that we have the resources to attract under-represented minority students to attend our school.
The UofSC SOMC competes with medical schools across the country to attract South Carolina’s best and brightest minority students. Many of these institutions have powerful recruiting tools in the way of full scholarships, stipends, research and travel support funds. We need to offer similar incentives so that gifted students will not be lost to other states. Currently, two out of every three under-represented minority students we accept into the MD program ultimately choose to attend another medical school. One of the primary reasons they give for their decision is the amount of financial support promised by the other schools. We must be able to offer similar incentives so that gifted students will not be lost to other states.
We all have a great opportunity to be part of changing the future of healthcare in our region. Please give whatever you can today to support our School of Medicine Diversity Recruitment Initiative. A gift to support tomorrow’s healthcare workforce is the best investment you will ever make.