With the number of black men in medical school dwindling, one Dallas doctor is hoping to help reverse the disconcerting trend.
The doctor who founded an organization called ‘Black Men in White Coats’ is holding a free summit at UT Southwestern next month in hopes of inspiring underrepresented kids as young as 8 years old to consider a career in medicine.
“What we know in terms of an individual's career path is that starting as young as third grade, individuals start thinking, ‘I'm interested in this.’ And they get set on the direction they're going to go in life,” said Dr. Dale Okorodudu, founder of Black Men in White Coats.
It did not take long for us to see Dr. Okorodudu is right.
“I've been wanting to be a doctor since I was 9,” said Jaylen Cortez, a junior from North Mesquite High School.
Dr. Okorodudu knows because he's literally written the book on what it takes for kids to become doctors.
“What I'd like these young African American children to know is this is possible for them,” he said.
The question is why are so few black men considering a career in medicine?
While the number of black women in medical school has increased in recent years, the number of black men has decreased. The Association of American Medical Colleges found was that the number of black men who applied and got into medical school was less in 2014 than in 1978. Experts say the reasons are complex but are also surprisingly simple.
“Back in the day, it’s kind of a joke, but everyone was watching the Cosby show. They'd watch a different world. These TV shows that exemplified black excellence,” Dr. Okorodudu said. “You don't find those shows on television anymore.”
On a regular basis, Dr. Okorodudu says his patients are surprised when they realize he is their doctor.
“Just last week, I walked into a patient's room. He thought I was taking him to get a cat scan,” the doctor recalled. “That's okay. I understand. They don't expect us to be medical doctors.”
According to the registration numbers, the event has struck a chord with the community. Every seat at the summit is expected to be full with even more students in overflow rooms.
Daniel Dunn is a senior at North Mesquite High School. He is one of the 1,300 students registered for the summit. He's wanted to be a doctor since he was 12. It’s a surprise to some of his peers.
“That’s kind of shocking to them,” he said. “No one else in my family has ever been a doctor.”
Dr. Okorodudu’s goal is to give kids a vision.
“Where there is not vision, people perish,” he said. “You have to have a vision in life to keep you on track.”
The event at UT Southwestern is on Saturday, February 16. While registration is full, there is a wait list where people can sign up and also get connected for future events.