Mike Bloomberg wants to solve America’s Black doctor shortage

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving about $100 million to four historically Black medical schools over the next four years, with students getting up to $100,000 apiece.

Bloomberg, a billionaire who made his fortune with the news and financial media organization that he owns, said he wants to increase the number of African American doctors by reducing the debt burden of students.

“More Black doctors will mean more Black lives saved, and fewer health problems that limit economic opportunity,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

Bloomberg is giving $34 million to Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, $26.3 million to the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, $7.7 million to Charles R. Drew University of Medicine in Los Angeles and $32.8 million to Howard University College of Medicine in Washington.

Students currently in years two, three and four of medical school will get retroactive scholarships of up to $25,000 a year, the schools said. Morehouse, Drew and the Howard medical schools said the amount is their largest-ever gift.

Morehouse School of Medicine President Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice said the gift will “lift the crushing burden of student debt,” while Meharry Medical College President Dr. James E.K. Hildreth said the money will help students choose to practice primary care medicine instead of higher-paying specialties, “allowing them to make decisions about where and how they practice based on their passion, not a paycheck.”

Bloomberg says its the first gift from his philanthropy arm’s Greenwood Initiative, named for the African American neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The initiative seeks to build generational wealth for Black families and increase investment in Black communities and institutions.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies’ investment is applauded by leading voices in medicine:

Association of Black Cardiologists

Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, Chair of the Board of the Association of Black Cardiologists and Professor of Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine states, “Helping medical students graduate with less debt, opens up new opportunities for them to serve the community as practicing physicians, biomedical scientists and educators. HBCU medical schools are driven to nurture these students, many from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The Association of Black Cardiologists looks forward to welcoming these graduates who will become cardiologists and join the ABC, in ‘Saving the Hearts and Minds of a Diverse America.’

The W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute

Randall Morgan, MD, Executive Director, The W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute states, “We applaud the timely and historic gift from the Bloomberg Philanthropies to the four HBCU medical schools in the United States. The successful graduation of Black and Brown medical students without excessive debt is the most effective way to end the health inequities that have been present in America for over 400 years”.

American College of Cardiology (ACC)

ACC President Athena Poppas, MD, FACC, states: “A diverse medical profession is critical to meeting the needs of all patients and a key strategic priority for the American College of Cardiology. The unprecedented $100 million donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies to HBCU medical schools will have a profound impact on diversity within medicine and reducing health disparities.”

American Heart Association (AHA)

“The American Heart Association is on a relentless mission to improve the health of all Americans and has adopted an unwavering position to eliminate health disparities,” said Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., MS, FAHA, FAAN, president of the American Heart Association and attending neurologist at New York- Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “This transcendent investment in HBCU medical schools by Bloomberg Philanthropies accelerates our quest to achieve health equity.”

The Association for Academic Minority Physicians (AAMP)

Donald E. Wilson, MD, MACP, Executive Director of the Association for Academic Minority Physicians and Dean Emeritus of the University of Maryland School of Medicine said “AAMP applauds this path breaking action by the Bloomberg Philanthropies. The lack of funding for medical education and training is one of the prime reasons that black and brown diversity is so lacking in clinical medicine and biomedical research. Eliminating Healthcare Disparities and providing appropriate healthcare for all is dependent upon having a diverse clinical workforce, engaging in broad community research and making well sourced policy decisions for our nation.”

National Medical Association

“Cross-sector investment in African American serving institutions is a key to ending the Slave Health Deficit,” says Leon McDougle, President of the National Medical Association.

National Minority Quality Forum

Gary Puckrein, PhD, President & CEO states, “The National Minority Quality Forum believes that reduction of patient risk by assuring optimal care for all must be the operating principle of the American health services research, delivery and financing system. We applaud the investment in HBCU medical schools by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which exemplifies both the thought and deed required to assure a delivery system that is responsive to the full diversity of the American general population.”