UConn’s Laurencin Leads National Conversation on Black Men in Medicine

The proceedings of a workshop on the shortage of black men in medicine, chaired by UConn's Dr. Cato Laurencin, is now public. (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)

Nationally renowned physicians of color—led by UConn Health’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin—are calling for action to address what they refer to as an American crisis that threatens the quality of our health care system: a decline in the rate of Black males going into medicine and science. According to some measures, approximately 2 percent of incoming medical students are Black males.

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Laurencin, whose roles at UConn include University Professor, Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Chair Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and chief executive of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, led a briefing of congressional leaders on Capitol Hill Friday morning.

“I believe the proceedings of this workshop will have a great impact,” Laurencin says. “My colleagues and I started working on this about three and a half years ago. We received funding from the Connecticut legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus to develop this, and have been working in collaboration with several others, including the National Academy of Medicine and the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute.”

Friday’s presentation was timed with the release of the proceedings from the workshop by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, as a 122-page book that is free for anyone to download. Joining Laurencin on Capitol Hill were Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Vivian Pinn, formerly of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Randall Morgan from the W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute.

Concepts and ideas from the workshop include:

  • Cultivating programs to address socioemotional circumstances around Black boys and men from childhood through graduate education
  • Rigorous pipeline programs that start early and groom children over time
  • Considering standardization of the evaluation of pipeline programs
  • Creating an evidence base of effective strategies using analytics, data, and metrics
  • Holding health professional schools accountable for increasing diversity
  • Acknowledging and addressing financial barriers in medical education, beyond education-related costs

The experts’ findings do not represent formal recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, but Laurencin says they could be a springboard that leads to recommendations.

“You have to address issues of racism and discrimination if you really want to make a change,” Laurencin says. “We hope that the ideas presented at the workshop will serve as a blueprint for further action nationally.”