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Before the American Civil War, a medical education was plainly not accessible to African-American students. Students of color who wished to get a medical degree had to study in schools mostly located in the North, Europe, or Canada.
From the late 19th century to the early years of the 20th century, African-American medical students faced numerous difficulties. Only a few educational institutions would allow African-American students to pursue their medical education regardless of their academic standing. Schools such as Howard University and Meharry Medical College were just some of the few institutions that were specifically established and managed by white Americans for medical students of color.
After the Civil War, several medical institutions and schools opened their doors to African-American students but racism, prejudice, and marginalization still existed through the “separate but equal” Jim Crow policies. In response to this, African-Americans established their own medical schools that catered only to minority students.
Through the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties, African-American students were slowly integrated into previously white-only schools and universities. Today, African-Americans are enjoying the fruits of their determined and hard-working predecessors. Despite the fact that they still face many issues, more African-American medical students are now practitioners in their respective fields.
Several laws/executive orders/regulations were passed or implemented in order to address the discrimination issues not only at schools but in government and private offices. These policies can be referred to as “Affirmative Action ,” a term first coined during the start of the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties.
As such, medical colleges and universities were required to implement programs and plans that can help address diversity issues . These plans and programs include active recruitment, outreach, support centers, advocate groups, residential houses with ethnic themes, and financial aid systems that cater to minority groups.
As a result, more students are given the chance to pursue their medical degrees regardless of race and economic status. These laws helped create a more diverse student body in many medical schools and a more diverse health care system .
Trends in African-American Medical Education
According to a survey done by the University of California, educational aspirations for many African-Americans remain high. Twenty-four percent of the school’s African-American population plan on getting doctoral degrees. The high interest of African-Americans in professional degrees such as medical and law professions can also be considered an improvement despite current difficulties.
At the VCU School of Medicine , about 8-10% of its student population are actually African-Americans, serving as proof that meaningful student body diversity can be achieved.
Practical Tips for African-American Students
One useful tip for African-American students who wish to pursue a medical degree is to get a clear understanding of and take advantage of race-neutral strategies used by many universities and colleges. These programs can include research fellowships, graduate school excellence programs that were developed for disadvantaged undergraduates, and other similar strategies. These strategies also focus on economic background. Conversely, African-American students would also do well to learn about private and public schools’ diversity/cultural outreach programs. These programs offer valuable guidance on grades and preparation strategies.
Another tip is to use the Internet when searching for financial aid information and resources that cater to minority groups. Getting a copy of the MSAR or Medical School Admission Requirements is also a good idea since this publication contains comprehensive information on financial aid programs, descriptions of federal aid strategies, requirements of specific schools, and a list of other helpful materials.
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