Students Express Concerns Through Forum on Racism in Medical Education

By: Kaleigh Cortez, Staff Writer-

At the “Mocs Move Forward: A Discussion of Diversity in Healthcare” event, students and professors joined in a conversation about the effects of diversity, or lack thereof, in healthcare education.

The Department of Pre-Health Advising held the second part of the six-part series, organized by Pre-Health Advisor, Theresa Blackman to provide a guided conversation that concentrated on racism in schooling and race-based exclusion from medical education.

Guest speakers were Assistant Professor for history, Dr. Julia Cummiskey and Associate Professor for public health, Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, who launched the first part of the event on Aug. 31. The dialogue began with the effects of bigotry in students from elementary school through doctoral programs.

Engaged students in the conversation included senior student, Candace Talley from Nashville, who believes she was a victim of “pushout” in her younger years of school. Talley explained pushout as “black and brown children [who] are punished more than white kids.” 

Talley said that the unfair disciplinary actions from her youth gave her a disadvantage in her education, and she attributed these experiences to why she attended nursing school later in life as an adult. 

Talley said, “These are not new issues.”

Cummiskey confirmed Talley’s sentiments during the discussion on race-based segregation in medical education by pointing to the 1910 Flexner Report, which recommended that funding be withheld from any medical schools that admitted non-white students, as an example.

“This had the effect of seriously limiting the opportunities for black Americans to get a medical education for many years,” Cummiskey said.

Cummiskey also stated that there are serious consequences when there is a deficit of black doctors.

“A recent study found that black newborns are significantly more likely to survive if they are cared for by black physicians,” she said. 

Talley later expressed how she felt about the forum and the impact for students. 

“The topics are relevant to the students at UTC.” Talley said. “This was a safe space for students and faculty to express their feelings and concerns. UTC should have more of these talks.”

The next event, “Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Equality: What Do They All Mean?” will take place on Monday, Oct. 5 from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

The third installment of this series will feature four guest speakers: UTC Associate Professor Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptist, Vice President of  College and Career Success at the Public Education Foundation Stacy Lightfoot, Equity Manager for the City of San Antonio Jonathon Butler, and Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Dionne Jenkins.

Students who wish to attend the event should register at: https://www.utc.edu/pre-health-care-careers/events.php.

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