The first step in addressing health disparities in minority communities is acknowledging they exist, but we can only expect to see significant progress when the physician workforce demographics matches that of the population it serves. We have to increase minority presence in healthcare, but how?
There are many barriers that block minority students from pursuing careers in health related fields spurring from lack of resources to the total absence of knowledge on the process of becoming a physician, but in my opinion, two of the biggest minority deterrents are the lack of representation and the social expectations of how a physician should look and act.
To unpack that last statement, many individuals of minority status are intimidated by the expectations that are synonymous with increased socioeconomic mobility of physicians; like the understanding of “highbrow” culture, politics, fine art, exotic cuisine—all of which usually require a certain level of status to interact with. In short, social constructs convince them that they aren’t polished enough for such a career.
I’m no art buff, wine connoisseur, or genius; just fortunate, tenacious and a bit lucky. To present myself as an example that any minority that “tries hard” can become a doctor is deceptive, and undermines the complexity of representation in medicine. And for that very reason I try to use social media to portray the many dynamic attributes that can comprise a future physician. Whether that means taking over the Umich Snapchat account on the behalf of the medical school, or rapping the lyrics to my favorite Curren$y song on Twitter. I want onlookers to realize that choosing a career in medicine shouldn’t depend on where you come from, your dialect, style of dress or customs—but whether or not you are committed and willing to serve mankind to the best of your ability.
So how am I hoping to influence the demographics of medicine? Using my social platform as a method of recruitment, all while challenging the status quo and revealing the new physician.
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Kristian Black is a fourth-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. Hailing from Louisiana, he enjoys LSU football and all-you-can-eat crawfish. He can be followed on Instagram and twitter at @indiana_black.