NEW YORK, May 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The coronavirus pandemic has placed a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial groups and vulnerable populations. To help address this disparity are physicians who understand the role of social determinants in health and are deeply committed to caring for the most at-risk populations.
Training those physicians is the mission of the CUNY School of Medicine.
"What distinguishes our first-ever graduating class is that they have been specifically trained to address health inequities and improve the healthcare of the underserved," said Erica Friedman, MD, interim dean, CUNY School of Medicine. The medical school recently held its degree-conferring ceremony to it 45 graduates, many of whom have already begun volunteering at hospitals on the front-lines of the pandemic.
The school recruits underrepresented minorities directly from high school into a combined BA/MD program where they are specifically trained to address health inequities and improve the healthcare of the underserved. Once they receive their degree, they return to inner-city communities where they serve as primary care physicians.
- Forty-eight percent of the School's inaugural graduates will pursue careers in primary care in New York area hospitals, a disproportionately higher percentage than the national average.
- Seventy-five percent of this class come from African-American, Latinx, and Asian backgrounds, also significantly larger than the national medical school average.
- More than 60 percent of the class are either from first-generation immigrant families or are immigrants themselves.
One student who is putting into practice her training as socially responsible healer is Ugochukwu (Ugo) Akpara.
Ugo recalls being a medical student in an internal medicine clerkship when she notice that a patient was acting strangely: shivering, sweating, and frequently excusing herself to go to the bathroom. The patient was at the hospital to have her pacemaker checked out, but the look in the woman's eyes pleaded: "Can I trust you?" Ugo drew on the communication skills that she learned at CUNY School of Medicine and discovered that not only was the woman undergoing withdrawal from heroin, but her husband was dying, her house was in foreclosure, and she was the sole caregiver for the children living with her. "Everything I learned about social determinants negatively impacting a person's health was right there in front of me, " she says. "These factors need to be addressed. That why I want to be in medicine. That's why I was given this knowledge."
In New York, African Americans make up 33% of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Yet black people are just 18% of the state's population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reported that, in New York City, death rates are significantly higher for Hispanics/Latinos than for whites.. In Illinois, 15% of the population is black, but 43% of those who died from COVID-19 were black. Michigan's population is about 14% black, yet black people accounted for 40% of that state's COVID-19 deaths.
"Our students are moving into the next phase of their careers at a defining moment for the medical profession," says Dr. Friedman. "They are the hope for the future of the healthcare profession raising their voices for those who don't have a voice and enlisting others to address inequality."
Media Contact: Marc Kaplan, [email protected], 646-244-2169
SOURCE CUNY School of Medicine