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Why having a physician who knows you culturally is important

CommonSpirit President and CEO Lloyd H. Dean and Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice join Yahoo Finance Live's "A Time for Change" to break down the growing need for minority doctors.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Welcome to "A Time for Change." I'm Kristin Myers here with Jen Rogers. Sibile Marcellus will be joining us a little bit later in the show. Today, we want to start by discussing health care, and more specifically, the need for more doctors of color. We know that Black patients receive better health outcomes when they have a Black doctor. Study after study shows that. So let's take a look at the race of physicians who are currently practicing medicine. Right now, only 5% of doctors in the country are Black.

JEN ROGERS: And looking at that graphic, less than 6% are Hispanic. The numbers don't get any better when we consider medical school enrollment, of course, where doctors are coming from, the next generation. Of the nearly 22,000 medical students in 2019, less than 1700 were Black. That is just 7%.

KRISTIN MYERS: And the story behind those statistics, the human impact became even more evident throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

JEN ROGERS: So right now, I want to bring in our guest Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health and, we'll be talking more about Dr. Susan Moore. But I actually just wanted to start, because this is an issue. Really, we've been talking about this, you know, the last half of the year here. We know all about a lot of the disparities that we've seen during the COVID pandemic.

We've, though, been hearing on the upside-- let's start with a little bit of the upside-- this idea of the Fauci effect, that medical school applications are actually rising. Stanford University School of Medicine has reported a 50% jump in the number of applications, so around 11,000 applications for 90 seats.

Fauci himself has said that he sees this maybe as part of a sign that people are taking this as a social justice movement. However, do you agree, and are we seeing applications from people of color surge as well in response to the coronavirus pandemic?

LLOYD DEAN: Yes, the answer is yes. As you have referenced, one of the problems that we have been dealing with for decades in this nation and having conversations about has been health disparities and health inequities. And at the core of that issue is the lack of adequate clinicians and physicians in communities of color, particularly Black communities.

And one of the things that we have seen as a result of this devastating virus is that in communities of color, in Black communities where there is not sufficient clinicians and physicians, that members of that community tend to slowly access the system. So we believe that a integral solution to this challenge as we've been reflecting on the disparate number of Blacks who have died as a result of this virus, is increasing the number and capacity of Black physicians and clinicians in African-American communities, but also in communities of color.

KRISTIN MYERS: You know, we heard that voice, Dr. Susan Moore, of her struggle when she went to the hospital, and she's a doctor herself-- about how she was not believed and how she was not satisfied with the care that she did receive when she went to the hospital. I'm wondering, as you're seeing it, how prevalent is her story around the United States of Black patients going to hospitals, going to health care providers and not receiving the care that they should, not being believed for any of their concerns that they might be raising to their doctors.

And do you think that perhaps, that her ending-- and sadly, for anyone that does not know, she did eventually die from complications of the coronavirus-- do you think that maybe her outcomes might have been different if she perhaps had a doctor of color in charge of her care?

LLOYD DEAN: Unfortunately, we are seeing over and over again that same scenario playing out. And study after study has shown that where we have physicians and clinicians of color that we get substantially better outcomes because of that. Having a physician that understands them culturally that they can trust, we know that we get better compliance with discharge orders. We know that that relationship leads to more frequent accessing of the system.

So yes, I believe that an integral part of preventing this scenario is for us to increase the number of Black physicians and physicians of color in community. There is no question-- no question-- that patients want to see and to interact with physicians who represent their demographic and who understand them and who they can trust. And if there was ever a time that we need to have that relationship and that alignment, we're seeing that now.

Because when we discuss reticence about vaccines, when we ask the question why are people of color not accessing the system earlier, with signs and symptoms of the virus leading to significant more deaths, I think-- and we believe-- and that this partnership that we are excited about with the Morehouse School of Medicine, will allow us to scale up and to train and to place more Black physicians in Black communities, but also to increase clinicians in communities of color. And we think it will allow us to begin to address this long-term challenge that we've had in the nation.

JEN ROGERS: Now joining us is Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of Morehouse School of Medicine. So Dr. Rice, we were just talking about the new partnership that you have initiated here to get more doctors of color. And one of the things that to try and think about is there are so many challenges for anyone, really, going to medical school and becoming a doctor. It costs a lot of money. It takes a lot of time to do it. This initiative-- 10 years, multi-million dollars-- what is your biggest challenge? I mean, is it money? Is it recruitment? It is bias in the health care industry overall?

Are there any, like, when you say like the one thing you need, is there one thing that could really help solve this problem? So thank you for having me. The one thing that we really need was this great partner like CommonSpirit. So yes, I was just on an interview with some people talking about whether or not JAMA, in fact, whether or not we should open up another historically black medical school. Well, to do that, it would take about five years and about $200 million, five to seven years and $200 million.

What we're going to be able to do with this partnership is take our wonderful model that we have-- we have about 100 students per year-- we're going to be able to go to five areas throughout the United States that are already connected to CommonSpirit, and we're going to be able to train an additional 25 to 30 students from various communities, hopefully, after they're going to spend the first two years at Morhouse School of Medicine and a third and fourth year at those hospitals.

Then, we're going to have them go to our residency training programs that are going to be throughout 10 markets of CommonSpirit. So you see, we're going to double our medical school class size in a shorter amount of time than it would take to start a new medical school, and using a model that we know is successful. So yes, it takes resources, but it also takes the right partners coming to the table for the right reason.

We know that we can educate and train this cohort of physicians. Give you one example. There are 3,650 Black students who applied to medical school last year who had MCAT scores that they should have gotten in that did not get in. Morehouse School of Medicine, our applications this year have gone up by 12%. So we got 8,000 applicants for 100 slots. We're going to be able to get more of those students in the seats by opening up these five new regional medical school campuses.

KRISTIN MYERS: So doctor, I know that you're addressing one of those hurdles which is frankly, that there are not enough seats in the classroom, so to speak, to train the next generation of doctors. But on the other side, for those applicants, for those students, what are some of the biggest challenges and hurdles facing them? And as you see it, what's the really low-lying fruit that might be out there that can really be picked to quickly address and quickly increase some of those numbers to increase the numbers of Black doctors, of Hispanic doctors, in the ranks?

VALERIE MONTGOMERY RICE: So, you make a good point. Let me just say, so I talked about those 3,500 or so students, right? Think about the fact that that's been going on for the last 10 to 15 years, and there are 155 medical schools. And the biggest gatekeeper has been MCAT. And so many medical schools are really concerned about their ranking in "US News and World Report." So if you're on the lower scale of the MCAT, which is the gatekeeper, you may not be seen as a viable candidate. We've been able to show at Morehouse School of Medicine that those students have a 98% chance that they're going to be successful.

So one of the things is, that people have to rid themself of unsubstantiated biases when it comes down to, like, MCAT scores or some of the GPAs, because none of those predict whether or not you're going to be a great doctor. None of them say that you're going to have the appropriate bedside manner to ensure that a patient gets the optimal level of care. None of those talk about or demonstrate that you're going to have the level of empathy.

We believe we have a learning environment that is filled with cultural competence. So not only have we taken students who are academically prepared, but we are instilling in them the cultural competence so that they can be the health care professionals that the nation needs. And so we have to get rid of some of our biases that have been used to really prevent students from being-- particularly underrepresented minority students-- from getting in the door and getting in those seats.

JEN ROGERS: Lloyd, we talk so much about the outcomes being better for patients of color with doctors of color. And I'm wondering if you think there's any responsibility for White patients in here. Like, in the whole anti-racism movement, we've seen people buying books and we're buying Black at Christmas. Do you think that White patients also should be seeking out Black doctors here? Will that help with some of the bias in the system?

LLOYD DEAN: I think that absolutely, there is no prohibition or nothing that should stop any patient from being seen and treated by a competent, well-trained physicians of color. Absolutely. I think that as we have had these discussions in our nation over the last year around institutional racism and our unjust biases, does that contribute to the hypothesis that you're setting forth? Absolutely.

But we know, and we have many examples of Black physicians treating white patients, when-- where there are physicians of color, when a patient enters an ED or an ER, they are treated by physicians of color, by Black physicians. So I think that this biases, which at best, is unjustified and unsubstantiated, that all of society has a accountability and a responsibility to be treated by a confident, competent clinicians, regardless of color. And this bias of color, we see it over and over again. And it's unfortunate, because there is just no quantitative or qualitative justification for it.

JEN ROGERS: Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of CommonSpirit. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of Morehouse School of Medicine. We could talk about this, and hopefully we can continue to talk about this with you as you roll out your initiative. Thank you so much for sharing what you are working on here.