From the Dorm to a Doctor’s Office: How You Can Succeed at a Career in Healthcare

It’s common knowledge that black medical professionals are underrepresented in their field, but the consequences of this inequality are not as well known. According to U.S. News and World Report, “Racial disparities in health and healthcare providers persist in the U.S., and may go hand in hand.” In other words, the health problems faced by underserved populations may come, at least partly, due to the lack of diversity in the field of professional medicine. We can see the effects of this inequality both on a large scale as well as in the ways that individual patients are treated. According to research, there is evidence that racial bias in pain perception is associated with racial bias in pain treatment recommendations—meaning, black Americans are under-treated for pain relative to white Americans.

Man in lab coat

Xavier University

Of course, before we can have more healthcare providers, we need more successful black medical students. If you like science and have a heart for the health of people in your community, you’re the perfect fit for a career in medicine. Now as much as ever, our healthcare system needs people who are both sharp and logical as well as compassionate and analytical. These skills will make you a competent healthcare worker with a successful career and, consequently, will give you the opportunity to represent and make a difference within both your community and the medical field.

A well-paying, emotionally fulfilling career in medicine is a worthy goal, though it undoubtedly requires years of hard work and dedication. As early as high school, you can take steps to set yourself up for success. Take as many honors and AP science classes as possible and strive for great grades. In your free time, volunteer at a local hospital or clinic. Once you’re in college, make sure to get connected with your health professions department, sign up for shadowing opportunities, and apply for internships that will help you narrow down what branch of healthcare you’re interested in while boosting your resume. Check out AAMC’s resources for aspiring doctors and financial aid to get a look into what it takes to practice health professionally. As you work on earning a degree in biology, health sciences, chemistry or a related field, start scoping out graduate schools early and make sure you take all the classes necessary to apply to your favorite universities.

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Man at Cookman taking a patient's blood pressure

Bethune-Cookman University

Most colleges will offer an applicable medical path major, but attending a rigorous university that prepares its pre-health and pre-med students will make a world of difference by the time you begin applying to medical school. Xavier University of Louisiana’s Division of Biological and Applied Health Sciences provides majors in biology, public health sciences and speech pathology, and its pre-medical office provides support for students intending to apply to medical school. Bethune-Cookman University offers an undergraduate nursing program, and its College of Health Science allows undergraduates to focus on either aging studies—one of the fastest growing sectors in medicine because all of us will get old one day—or health and exercise science. Oakwood University’s School of Nursing and Health Professions provides even more opportunities for students to pursue their specific interests with degrees in allied health, health and exercise science, nursing and nutrition and dietetics. Whatever you choose to focus on, a science-focused scholarship such as The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program, will be a great fit.

Man in lab coat and mask in operating room at Oakwood University

Oakwood University

The options available to students change too quickly for you to try to keep up on your own. Follow UNCF (United Negro College Fund) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and we’ll bring you the most attention-worthy news, success stories and opportunities. We know you’re going to change the workforce for the better. And, we’re here to help.