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HBCU Xavier University of Louisiana recently announced that they’re now in the early planning stages of opening up their own medical school and graduate school of health and sciences.
While the press release didn’t give any more information about what the project will look like or when it’s planned to be opened, the school announced that the new establishment is part of their efforts to combat health disparities by increasing representation in the medical world.
As of now, the HBCU’s efforts include the addition of several graduate degree programs such as a Physicians Assistant program, a master’s in Public Health program, Speech Pathology, Pharmaceutical Studies and Health Analytics. With these new programs, the school hopes to expand the areas Black medical students can enter when they go into the professional world.
“Xavier was founded with the mission of promoting the creation of a just and humane society through education,” said the president of the HBCU, Dr. Reynold Verret, in the news release. “The establishment of graduate education programs dedicated to the preparation of more Black healthcare professionals is a natural extension of our foundress’ legacy as we approach our second century of service. It is also where we are called to answer a critical need of our nation.”
The school’s moves to transform the medical world come after the COVID-19 pandemic brought racial inequality in the medical field to the forefront. According to a report written by the UConn School of Social Work, at the height of the pandemic, states like Kansas and Illinois were disregarding the Black community in testing programs.
While they made up a third of COVID-19 deaths in Kansas, just 4,854 Black Americans were tested. Meanwhile, of the 94,780 tests that were administered, 50,070 of these tests were used on white Americans.
With the lack of testing and unavailability of treatment, Black Americans suffered the most in terms as they passed away at more than double the rate of white Americans. According to the study, for every 100,000 Black Americans, about 97.9 passed away as a result of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, for every 100,000 white Americans, about 46.4 passed away because of COVID-19.
Disparities such as the ones during the pandemic stem from a lack of Black representation in the medical world. According to a report written by the Harvard School of Medicine and other collaborators, only 4% of U.S. doctors are Black Americans and less than 7% of medical students are Black. As a result, doctors who are able to understand patients’ needs and earn patients’ trust are unavailable for Black Americans.
With Xavier University of Louisiana’s new establishment, the school hopes to help increase these statistics. The new medical school will be one of the few HBCU medical schools to exist as only one has opened up at an HBCU in recent years, according to the press release.
“In 1925, Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded Xavier to create a more just and humane society for all,” said a spokesperson for the HBCU in a statement. “In addition to being recognized for providing a quality, affordable education for all, Xavier is poised as the catalyst for change and to address needs of the local and national community.”