PCOM’s Brothers and Sisters in Medicine creating space for minorities in healthcare

PCOM reports that less than 5% of physicians nationwide are African American.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 7:33 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 11:33 PM EST
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MOULTRIE, Ga. (WALB) - PCOM South Georgia medical college is trying to create more space for minorities in healthcare.

PCOM reports that less than 5% of physicians nationwide are African American. With that statistic in mind, they want to do more to increase the number of minorities in medicine.

Dr. Robert Walker is the founder of Brothers and Sisters in Medicine. He says it’s important to have one graduating class experience this new addition.

“We have, right now, between 15-20 males in Brothers in Medicine, and that spans all four years of our curriculum as it relates to South Georgia. With graduating our first class coming up in May, and by having our graduating class, we actually have been able to have the gentlemen in the founding class be able to talk to the first years,” Walker said.

Evan Curry is a first-year medical student and says that he immediately felt welcomed when he first heard of the organization.

“Medicine is kind of not necessarily a welcoming space for minorities in terms of applications and everything. So they wanted to make sure they provided a space for minority men to feel seen and safe and pursue education together,” Curry said.

Brothers and Sisters in Medicine was created specifically for Black men and women to close the...
Brothers and Sisters in Medicine was created specifically for Black men and women to close the racial gap in the healthcare system.(Source: WALB)

Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, assistant director of diversity and community relations, is the founder of Sisters in Medicine. She says more Black women are needed in the healthcare field.

“So I can talk for the Sisters in Medicine, so when I came in about a year and a half ago I noticed that we were doing a wonderful job about admitting a lot of Black women into PCOM South Georgia. But they were having some challenges with feeling a sense of belonging,” Mitchell said.

First-year PCOM student Janai Groves has a unique perspective as she was looking for a sisterhood, as she felt others did not understand her path.

“That’s definitely what I was looking for. Coming from a background where I don’t have any friends in medicine, nobody in my family is in medicine. So I was definitely looking for a shoulder to lean on especially coming from an environment where nobody knows the path it takes to get to where I’m going,” Groves said.

Brothers and Sisters in Medicine is a unique organization specific to PCOM. It’s an effort to increase the number of minorities working in health care.

Students comment on opportunities in PCOM's Brothers and Sisters in Medicine

When you visit your primary care provider, do you see professionals that are African American? Many minority PCOM students told WALB they didn’t see many doctors who look like them. They say they wanted that to change.

“I actually didn’t really see many physicians that looked like me growing up. That wasn’t something out of the norm, that I didn’t really internalize that much growing up. But as I got closer to becoming a med(ical) student, that’s when I started seeing more of the discrepancies,” Emeka Ikeakanam, a first-year PCOM student, said.

Jordan Howard, a first-year medical student, says the support and having something that was familiar to him is what led him to the group.

“I decided to be a part of the group because it was so familiar to what I had already been a part of throughout my undergrad experience. Being with brothers, fellowshipping and being a part of a group that was bigger than myself,” Howard said.

The unique thing about Brothers and Sisters in Medicine is that it’s not your traditional club. It’s created as a safe space for Black men and women and other people of color.

“This sounds like a great opportunity. It sounds like a group that really wanted to be involved in the community, and wanted to make an impact. It wasn’t your traditional mundane ‘hey, here is this little student organization, we just going to network between us.’ It was meant to impact the community in a positive way,” Nicholas Bohannon, a first-year PCOM student, said.

By being a part of this organization, students will be matched with a mentor that has been in the field to provide additional support and advice. The next project they are working on is hosting a barbershop talk feeding off ideas from those in the profession.

“Day one, from the first day that they are in there, we don’t try and wait until year three year to pair them with a physician. The physicians that we have that work with Brothers in Medicine or Sisters in Medicine volunteer. It’s not something we ask them to do. It’s something they feel led to,” Dr. Walker said.

One thing this organization teaches students is to be a part of the “infinity circle.” This means supporting one another in this brother and sisterhood.