Mississippi Does Not Have Enough Black Doctors, This Medical Student Wants To Change That
Mississippi is in need of more Black doctors, and Eric Lucas Jr. wants to help make that happen, according to Mississippi Today.
Lucas is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Lucas wants to help young black men like himself enter the medical field; and he spoke about his plans and what he hopes to achieve.
Lucas has always wanted to pursue a career in health care, and with parents as accomplished as his, it was almost destined. His mother is a dentist, and his father is a critical care intensivist, so science was a constant in his home growing up. He was only four years old when he was gifted a microscope kit, he told the news organization.
Lucas’ desire to help those just like him prompted him to create the Black Men in Health Care Empowerment Summit. This one-day program invites middle school and high school students from all over Mississippi to tour UMMC and participate in clinical simulations.
“That’s how I was raised,” he said.
“When you walk through the door, you should help someone to walk in.”
Lucas came up with the idea during his first year at UMMC while hanging out with classmates. He had offhandedly remarked about how interesting it would be if there were a summer camp that exposed students to different medical schools so they could understand what it takes. His classmates reminded him that if you don’t see it, you don’t believe it. This prompted Lucas to pursue his idea.
What initially started as a casual comment turned into a years-long initiative to inspire young Black men. Complete with tours, panels, and lectures, the Black Men in Health Care Empowerment Summit was born.
Lucas’ program comes at the right time, as Mississippi desperately needs more doctors that look like him. According to a 2021 report from Commonwealth Fund, Mississippi has significant racial-health disparities, ranking near the bottom or last when measuring health outcomes, access to health care, and quality of health care. There is also a significantly small percentage of black doctors in the United States, despite Black people composing about 12% of the country’s population, according to CNN. In a January 2023 report, the Association of American Medical College revealed that less than 6% of doctors in the United States identify as Black or African American. Lucas wants to encourage young Black men to venture into the healthcare profession so that this can change.
One man who helped make this all possible is Dr. Demondes Haynes, the Associate Dean for Admissions at UMMC. He noted that the only demographic group that has seen a decline in student application and admittance to medical school for the past 40 years was Black men. Black workforce representation in the healthcare field has also been tied to longer life expectancy, according to a 2023 study from JAMA Network. Because of these observations, Haynes was more than happy to assist Lucas with this project.
“Just to let students know that a career in health care is an option,” he told Mississippi Today.
“Not that everybody that’s here today will become a doctor or dentist or a nurse, but we want them to know that it is an option.”