Visibility ‘extremely important’ in enriching diversity in health, medical careers
PHILADELPHIA — Visibility matters and it is perhaps one of the most important factors to successfully navigating a winding road down a mountain or safely flying passengers in an airliner from one destination to another and maybe more so in the field of medicine.
For Darrell Gray II, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine and director of Community Engagement and Equity in Digestive Health at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, visibility leads to a path toward success.
“The truth of the matter is, visibility is extremely important for many youth, particularly those from neighborhoods and backgrounds where exposure to health care professionals is limited, to believe that they can achieve a career in medicine,” Gray told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “They have to see it, and they have to see people that look like them.”
Gray, who chairs the American College of Gastroenterology’s Minority Affairs and Cultural Diversity Committee, and colleagues hosted a Prescriptions for Success program at Central High School, a local high school in a predominantly underserved neighborhood in Philadelphia, during last month’s ACG Annual Meeting to speak with students about a career in medicine.
“For us to go there, as a very diverse group of gastroenterologists from varying backgrounds including but not limited to first generation college graduates and immigrants, to be able to tell our stories and share success and challenges, makes a tremendous impact,” he said.
“We know that there are fewer black men matriculating through medical school now then there were in 1978, and so efforts like this are extremely important if we want to improve what has become a leaky or broken pipeline.”
Since 1999, members of the ACG’s Minority Affairs and Multi-Cultural Diversity Committee have gone out into the annual meeting’s host city’s community to speak with students about a pursuit of careers in medicine.
“We get to talk to students about our personal journeys, both challenges and successes, and leave pearls of wisdom about how they too can pursue a career in health and medicine,” he said.
Joys of the program
Gray said that it is exciting for the students attending the program to get a hands-on experience.
The committee works with Fujifilm to provide a simulator that allows the students to see what it is like to perform a colonoscopy.
“Students get to play with the colonoscope and they find it to be a lot of fun, likening it to playing a video game. It also gives them an insight to some of the things we do on a day-to-day basis to screen and diagnosis patients,” he said.
The students, Gray mentioned, are not the only ones who have fun during the program.
“One of the joys of this program is that you get to see the gastroenterologists that participate having as much, if not more, fun than the students,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that many of us look forward to as a way of giving back and so, I think this is an ongoing effort that should continue into perpetuity.”
Many great questions
Gray said that a student approached him after the program to thank the doctors for being there.
She said “it was much better to speak with the physicians one-on-one rather than having to look everything up online and be confused,” according to Gray.
“For her and her classmates, it made a huge difference,” he said. “All of us who participated could see that because they asked so many great questions.”
For instance, the approximately 100 students who attended the program asked questions about debt coming out of medical school and how to navigate paying it off, and how to overcome any challenges that they may face during their drive down the path to their potential success.
Gray noted that there will be a Prescription for Success Program held at a school in San Antonio during next year’s annual meeting, but that a location has not yet been selected.
“Hopefully these efforts contribute to the pipeline for students to go into health careers,” he said. “This is just one of several efforts that are necessary if we plan to enrich the diversity within our gastroenterology workforce.” – by Ryan McDonald
Disclosures: Gray reports no relevant financial disclosures.