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Sen. Bernie Sanders Addresses Critical Shortage Of Black Physicians At The NMA’s Professional Development Series

During the National Medical Association’s (NMA) 8th Annual Professional Development Series at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) 2023 Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), physicians, elected officials, and healthcare experts addressed issues related to healthcare transformation, including the shortage of Black physicians.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) spoke during the series and managed healthcare disparities and the shortage of Black physicians.

The ALC is a gathering of visionaries, activists, and leaders shaping the future of African Americans and the global Black community. According to a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), only 5.7% of U.S. doctors are Black or African American, a detrimental shortage that has far-reaching and negative effects on the lives of people of African descent.

While discussing the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act he is co-sponsoring, Sen. Sanders shared details about the potential positive impact on the Black doctor shortage.

“We have $300 million in the bill and it will go to those medical schools which focus on graduating doctors who go into primary health care. HBCUs do a very good job at that. In addition, excellent have a carve-out of 20%, which would be $60 million that will go to minority medical schools, primarily HBCUs. So our effort will significantly expand the number of Black doctors in this country.”

Multiple efforts are underway to address the shortage.

The NMA works with the AAMC, a nonprofit association dedicated to improving people’s health everywhere through medical education, health care, medical research, and community collaborations. The AAMC and the NMA are working collaboratively to address the low numbers of Black male physicians. Based on research done by the AAMC, the enrollment of Black males in medical school only increased from 2.4% to 2.9% since 2014.

Sanders joined the NMA’s 124th president, Yolanda M. Lawson, MD, as a speaker at the session. Dr. Lawson was elected President in July 2023 at the association’s national convention in New Orleans.

“Our physician leaders, health care expert speakers, and legislators spent today addressing many of the challenging issues we face in transforming health care outcomes for Black communities. We are grateful that Sen. Sanders was able to join us and share some of the legislative solutions we can support to make a change,” Dr. Lawson said.

The daylong Professional Development Series event was open to NMA members and attendees of the CBCF ALC. Throughout the day, physician leaders and healthcare experts addressed key topics, including a national nutrition strategy, 340B drug pricing, changes to Medicaid, diversity and inclusion, the Black physician workforce, maternal and reproductive health, the HIV epidemic, and the National Cancer Plan (the NMA is a participant in the President’s Cancer Panel).

Joy D. Calloway, Executive Director of the NMA, noted that “even 129 years later, our mission and objective remains timely and critical. That is to amplify the voice of the Black physician, the Black patient, and the Black community.”