December 14, 2011
There are 27 seventh- and eighth-grade boys, mostly from Pittsburgh Public Schools, in Journey to Medicine. In January, 15 sixth-grade boys will be added.
The Gateway Medical Society, which consists of black doctors and is a Pittsburgh component of the Silver Spring, Md.-based National Medical Association, founded Journey to Medicine to provide role models to young, black males and to close the gap in racial disparities in health care.
"Not only do we try to encourage and engage (the students), but we're also trying to make sure they have all the tools and training they need to get into medical schools," said Dr. Anita Edwards, a partner in Century III Medical Associates in West Mifflin and program director of Journey to Medicine.
Of the 300 million people in the United States in 2010, 12.7 percent were black, according to the Census Bureau. According to data physicians reported to the American Medical Association in Chicago, 37,833 doctors were black, constituting 3.8 percent of the nation's 985,375 physicians. Black male doctors accounted for 2 percent of the overall total, according to the association.
"So we are trying to directly address the problem of diminished presence," said Dr. William Simmons, an anesthesiologist at UPMC Shadyside and Gateway's vice president.
The Journey students meet at least twice a month for workshops ranging from emergency medicine to cardiology and to work in simulations with interactive mannequins. The students receive tutoring in math, science and English.
Schoolmates and honor roll students DeVaughn and Aladiyn Wilson, 14, a Crafton resident, are second-year Journey members who want to become obstetricians, they said.
The most interesting part of their Journey participation has been obtaining certification in CPR and interacting with practicing physicians, they said.
"I like it so far. It's helping me become a doctor and making me know more about science and stuff," Aladiyn said.