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Scholarship Endowed to Improve Health of African Americans

AMA Foundation and Association of Black Cardiologists Form Partnership

9/27/2013, 4:09 p.m.
Courtesy of abcardio.org

The AMA Foundation and the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) have partnered to create a scholarship that will promote diversity in medicine, encourage commitment to eliminating health care disparities, and support future cardiologists, while helping to alleviate medical student debt.

The scholarship will be announced at "Saving Hearts for Generations," the fourth annual ABC awards dinner at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington on Sept. 28, 2013.

With generous support from founding donor Genita Evangelista Johnson, the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson/Association of Black Cardiologists Fund will provide tuition support to first- and second-year African American medical students with an expressed interest in cardiology.

"Because of high student debt and other inequities, we are facing what I call a 'diversity deficit' that must be addressed financially and educationally," said founding donor Genita Evangelista Johnson, an educator and business entrepreneur. "This is why I decided to use my resources to establish this scholarship fund."

Johnson made an initial commitment of $100,000, which will allow the fund to grant an annual $5,000 scholarship. When additional contributions bring the fund to $250,000, the scholarship will increase to $10,000. The goal is to grow the fund and to grant multiple scholarships.

“I hope my message of philanthropy is heeded by others, and that they will pledge money to enlarge this fund," Johnson said.

One in three black Americans will die from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. Only 3 percent of all cardiologists in the United States are African Americans, and the percentage of black Americans pursuing careers as physicians is dwindling. Experts warn that this trend could exacerbate health disparities and doctor shortages.

"Since I founded ABC four decades ago, I have witnessed the fact that the number of black cardiologists has not increased, despite an increased need for doctors to deal with cardiovascular disease, the nation's number one health problem," said Dr. Richard Allen Williams, a clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.

Physicians with racial and ethnic backgrounds that are similar to their patients provide culturally competent care and in turn, have higher patient-satisfaction rates. These physicians also are likely to provide care to underserved populations with higher rates of disease and less access to care.

One of the many barriers preventing an increase in the number of black doctors is the cost of going to medical school, which leaves 86 percent of young physicians with an average debt of $162,000. The purpose of this partnership is to build the pipeline for future black cardiovascular disease specialists through scholarship support.

"This disparity can best be addressed by recruiting more black medical students into careers in cardiology and by helping them to reduce their debt burden," said Williams, who is president and CEO of the Minority Health Institute, Inc. "This scholarship will target both aspects of the problem. In essence, it will help to bring the mandate of the ABC, to reduce and eliminate disparities in cardiovascular disease and to increase diversity, full circle."

"It is comforting to know that my charitable donation is a good investment in the effort to eliminate healthcare disparities in cardiovascular disease," Johnson said.

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