Barriers must be broken to encourage more diversity among Manitoba’s future doctors, black medical students say, and now they’re doing what they can to help other young people learn more about medicine.
More than 100 Manitoba youth, who have an interest in health care, have signed on to be part of the province’s first Black Health Symposium on Sunday. After hearing keynote speeches from prominent black and Indigenous health-care professionals and politicians, Helen Teklemariam, a fourth-year student at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine, hopes youth may be more informed and inspired to apply for medical school.
Teklemariam is one of about 12 black medical students at U of M. She and three other fourth-year students formed the Black Medical Students Association and decided to organize a public symposium after seeing that so few local doctors — practising and prospective — looked like them.
"We realized that there has been a lack of representation in Manitoba in terms of the health-care field in the black community, and we know from research that increased representation actually leads to better outcomes for patient care," Teklemariam said. They were encouraged that 123 attendees (youth between 15-25) had registered as of Friday afternoon.
"The desire to enter the health-care field is clearly there in the black youth population. We realize now that the interest is there, but there is a bit of a disconnect between becoming interested in the field and actually being admitted into the field, and we’re hoping to bridge some of those gaps that exist," she said.
Many of the barriers that exist for minorities who want to apply to medical school may seem invisible to those who grew up with parents who also went to post-secondary school or had the means to do so. The event, to be held at U of M’s Bannatyne campus Sunday, aims to answer prospective students’ questions.
Greater representation is good for patient care and for the medical system as a whole, said Dr. Biniam Kidane, a Winnipeg thoracic surgeon who was a refugee from Eritrea.
"There are a lot of cultural aspects to interpreting symptoms and delivering care, and getting people to engage in their own health care, that is hard to do if you don’t have access to a specific cultural background," said Kidane, who is one of the keynote speakers.
"It’s just about trying to increase representation by actually bringing it to the youth, by showing them that the health-care system can be responsive to your needs, but you need to participate in it, and you can participate in it."
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.