CHICAGO—Malcolm X College in Chicago was filled with young, eager, future health professionals who attended the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit on October 21. Chicago is one of the 20 cities Black Men in White Coats chose to host the hands-on health conference.
Dr. Dale Okorodudu is a pulmonary and critical care doctor based in Texas and is the founder of Black Men in White Coats. Dr. Okorodudu, also known as Dr. Dale, told The Final Call, “When I was a medical student I had a mentor who instilled the importance of looking out for the community, helping other people. He did that for myself and other students, and I got into mentoring.”
Dr. Dale continued, “However what really sparked the birth of Black Men in White Coats was while I was a student at Duke University in 2013, an article came out. In that article, it said that the number of Black men applying to medical school was decreasing.” He explained that according to the article, fewer Black men applied to medical school in 2011 than in 2002, and another article stated that fewer Black men applied to medical school in 2014 than in 1978.
“So, all other groups, including Black women, applying to medical school were going up, but Black men were going down. I was a resident at that time, and I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to make a video about it.”
He and his brother Daniel, also a doctor and co-founder of Black Men in White Coats, began making informational videos “to try to make medicine look cool,” explained Dr. Dale Okorodudu.
Marvell X attended the conference with his young son. “The reason I am here is because my son, who is seven years old, wants to become a surgeon. This is a great opportunity for him to be exposed to Black men who are working in the field that he would like to be in. I think it is great imagery and it allows my son to actually see himself doing what it is that he wants to do.”
Marvell’s son, Wali, stated, “The reason why I want to be a surgeon is because I like working with blood, and I like blood because my favorite color is red. I also like learning about the body systems because I really like learning about myself. I like to know how I breathe, how I eat, how I think, and how I stay alive. I am a student at Muhammad University of Islam, and I enjoy attending school,” he said.
Ray Muhammad was in attendance with his 12-year-old son, Majeed. “My son is interested in going into the medical profession and I am excited that Dr. Dale put this together. Young people like my son are interested in the medical field but don’t have access, we don’t have a person that we are related to that can kind of broker us into the field,” said Mr. Muhammad.
Majeed stated, “I became interested in the medical field from my sister because she asked me why I was interested in being in medicine and I told her that I like the reaction from something that you do.”
Venus Coates traveled to the conference from Milwaukee. “The Medical College of Wisconsin is going to host a Black Men in White Coats on May 4. My daughter has an interest in medicine, so she’s here with me.” Her daughter, Amayah, is nine and explained, “I like learning about science, and one day I would like to be a doctor.”
Angilique Jones also traveled from Milwaukee and stated she was also happy she attended. She also brought her daughter because of her interest in the medical field. “This is a really good way to network and be a part of this big program,” said Ms. Jones. Her daughter Maleyah is 15.
“I am looking forward to working with people in the cardiovascular area. I have always been interested in the heart and bringing awareness to heart disease,” said Maleyah.
Erika Shaw attended the event with her son. “This event is amazing. My son is able to see the vast opportunities in the medical field,” said Ms. Shaw.
Her son Jeremiah, who is 11 years old, stated, “I really enjoyed being at this event. I learned that there are different things I can do in the medical field. I am interested in becoming a dentist.”
The event had several stations where participants were able to engage hands-on, such as learning aspects of performing CPR using CPR dolls, learning how to close a wound by wrapping bandages on volunteers, and learning how to fill cavities.
Dr. Daniel Okorodudu is an endocrinologist and co-founder of Black Men in White Coats. “The response and growth of this program has been great, more than what we imagined. We started with a cell phone inside my apartment, Dale and I just recording,” he said.
Dr. Joseph Davis is superintendent of the Ferguson, Missouri, School District, which just started a chapter of Black Men in White Coats in that city. “I am superintendent, however, I am a math teacher by training and I am a teacher at heart, so we have a STEAM pipeline,” he explained. STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. “We want Black students, Black young men in particular, to access this program.”
The young future health professionals who attended were treated to a panel discussion. Dr. Anthony Douglas is a general surgery resident physician at the University of Chicago Hospital and he was one of the panelists. “This program is amazing; I wish I had opportunities like this to meet other Black doctors. It is going to take us to free us,” said Dr. Douglas.
“This does not happen often in our community, but it needs to happen more, and I am thankful that people like Dr. Dale have taken their time and their effort to create meetings like this for young people to be inspired and to meet physicians that look like them. Our community has to have both researchers and physicians. Decisions are made on a high level that affects millions of people. Not having the input or the perspective on what Black people go through, is a matter of life and death,” Dr. Douglas continued.
“We need Black doctors in order to close the gap in terms of life expectancy. The fact that Black people are dying 10-11 years younger than White people; that Black college-educated people are dying before uneducated White people; those numbers don’t change unless you have Black doctors.”
To learn more about Black Men in White Coats, visit www.blackmeninwhitecoats.org.