Black Men in White Coats aims to diversify health and medicine.
As soon as Stephane Moray’s mom told him about an all-day event for kids who want to become doctors, he couldn’t wait. The East Providence ninth-grader said he has always wanted to be a pediatrician, because he likes helping people and he enjoys kids.
Moray was one of more than 200 people who attended the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit at the Medical School in October. The free public event, cosponsored by the School of Public Health, was packed with workshops, activities, and presentations about careers in health and medicine, as well as opportunities for mentorship and networking. Moray was most excited about a session led by medical students, about how to prepare for medical school.
Black Men in White Coats was founded in 2013 in response to alarming data from the Association of American Medical Colleges showing that the already low number of Black males applying to medical school was falling even further. The summit, one of several hosted across the US, was geared toward kids in grades three and up—particularly from groups underrepresented in medicine—as well as the people supporting and raising them, said co-organizer Rosedelma Seraphin, MA, assistant director of diversity and multicultural affairs.
“We wanted to be able to give parents, caregivers, educators, and community leaders the tools and information they need to support and nurture a child’s interest in medicine and health,” Seraphin said. “And we want students to leave feeling energized, with excitement and passion for a career in medicine, and also feeling like they have the support to be able to get there.”
More than 75 people from across Brown volunteered at the event, including physicians, medical and PhD students, and faculty. Dioscaris Garcia PhD’12, an assistant professor of orthopaedics (research), talked to the kids about growing up in Central Falls.
“I’m seeing a lot of versions of myself, but way smarter and better looking,” Garcia joked, before telling the students that the event wasn’t just about showing them what kinds of careers were available to them. “We want you to know that we’re here for you,” he said. Garcia encouraged the kids and their parents to reach out to him personally for advice or mentorship. He said he was the only person of color in orthopedics when he first joined the department.
“It never gets old to talk about how representation matters,” said Sophie Gibson, who attended with her niece and nephew, seventh-graders from Providence and North Providence. Gibson said that she wanted them to hear from people of color in the medical field and to have the chance to explore different educational and career pathways.
At one workshop, medical students talked to elementary school kids about broken bones and taught them how to put a cast on a teddy bear. When they asked who wanted to become a doctor, almost all of the hands went up.
During a session for adults about raising a doctor, an audience member shared a dilemma about moving her middle-schooler out of the city to a suburb, only to encounter racism in the community. The panelists and several attendees talked about their own experiences with racism and tokenism, and shared advice and strategies.
Devon Edwards, a 10th-grader from Falmouth, MA, said he was especially impacted by hearing such a range of personal experiences, and learning about different professional journeys. He said that previously, he hadn’t been considering a career in health care. “But after today,” he said, “I am now.”