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Historic rise in enrollment of first-year black medical students

In 2021, the number of black first-year medical students increased by 21%.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of black first year medical students increased by 21% to 2,562.

In total, the number of medical school applicants increased by 18%.

"One cannot ignore the impact that issues like systemic barriers like systemic racism has had on the access and quality of education that minoritized communities have experienced throughout the history of this country," explained Dr. Geoffrey Young with the AAMC.

Prior to COVID-19, Dr. Young said the number of applicants that enrolled into medical school was pretty stagnant.

He said the pandemic has put an even bigger spotlight on the health care disparities within the black community, "Patients are more likely to be more compliant with treatment, they're likely to feel more comfortable therefore feeling more trusting if a physician looks like him or her."

Data from the AAMC shows that black students make up 11.3% of first year medical students, up from 9.5% in 2020.

"This particular cohort of people showing up have been doing work for much longer than COVID has been around," Dr. Carlos Cream with UPMC Central said.

With black doctors representing a mere 5% of the health care population, Dr. Cream said this is a huge step to bridging the gap between the black community and the historical distrust in the medical system.

"The comfort in the familiarity with the providers to know that they truly have your best interest at hand and that's why seeing this increase of minority students is crucial," he explained.

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