Mike Bloomberg is donating $100 million to four historically Black medical schools in a bid to improve medical care for Black Americans, who are more likely than Whites to die at nearly all stages of life, including during the coronavirus pandemic.
The former New York City mayor's donation means about 800 medical students at four schools — Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine in Los Angeles; Howard University College of Medicine in Washington; Meharry Medical College in Nashville; and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta — will get scholarships worth up to $100,000 to help fund their education.
Bloomberg's contribution is expected to cover scholarships to nearly every medical student currently enrolled and receiving financial aid over the next four years at the schools.
Black Americans, who are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as whites, have better health care outcomes when treated by Black doctors, Bloomberg noted in announcing the donation.
Studies have previously shown that explicit or implicit racial biases among health care workers can lead to lower quality treatment. Studies have also shown that African American men are more likely to follow an African American physician's orders, particularly in taking preventative steps.
Yet while African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population, only 5% of practicing physicians are Black, according to 2018 data cited by Bloomberg. According to the billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate, the present public health crisis makes clear that Black communities would be better served by having more Black doctors practicing in them.
"COVID-19 has been especially devastating for the Black community, and the scarcity of Black doctors practicing in Black communities is one reason for it," he said. "More Black doctors will mean more Black lives saved and fewer health problems that limit economic opportunity. But right now, the burden of student debt and lack of financial aid means that the shortage of Black doctors could get even worse."
Bloomberg's financial commitment follows up on the Greenwood Initiative, a racial justice program he started in the final days of his presidential campaign.