CommonSpirit, Morehouse medical school launch initiative to increase Black doctors nationwide

A male primary care doctor and his patient sit across from each other talking. Both are wearing masks
Morehouse and CommonSpirit will establish five new regional medical school campuses and graduate medical education programs in at least 10 markets in partnership with CommonSpirit healthcare facilities to be announced in spring 2021. (Getty/Geber86)

One of the largest health systems in the U.S. is teaming up with one of the top historically Black medical schools to develop more Black doctors across the U.S.

CommonSpirit Health and the Morehouse School of Medicine announced a 10-year, $100 million partnership to develop and train more Black physicians in an effort to address one of the underlying causes of health disparities, officials said Wednesday.

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates about 5% of practicing physicians in the U.S. are Black.

“Of the 21,863 students entering medical school in 2019, only 1,626 were Black—and only 619 were Black males,” said Morehouse School of Medicine dean and President Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D., in a statement. “This statistic is alarming for many reasons, not the least of which is the impact on patient care. Studies show that Black patients have better outcomes when treated by Black doctors.”

Morehouse and CommonSpirit will establish five new regional medical school campuses and graduate medical education programs in at least 10 markets in partnership with CommonSpirit healthcare facilities to be announced in spring 2021. The partnership will ensure a minimum of 300 additional underrepresented providers complete their residency training annually recruited from communities that have historical provider shortages.

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Morehouse has a leading primary care training program and one of three historically Black medical schools that produce a majority of the nation's Black physicians. Meanwhile, CommonSpirit has locations in 21 states across the U.S. in some of the country's most diverse communities, officials said.

It makes the partners "uniquely positioned to impact health equity through education and training opportunities," officials said in a statement.

“We are laying the foundation for patients to have more access to Black clinicians and for Black medical students and graduates to gain community-based experience that they need to be successful in their work,” said CommonSpirit President and CEO Lloyd H. Dean in the statement. “Our initiative also will create a pathway for healthcare organizations across the nation to follow and share our learnings, a vital part of our work.”

The announcement comes amid increasing awareness about social healthcare inequities highlighted by the global pandemic as well as a national conversation about systemic racism. Last week, dozens of corporations and organization joined the OneTen commitment to hire a million Black Americans over the next decade. Among healthcare organizations that took the pledge are Cleveland Clinic, Humana, Intermountain Healthcare, Johnson and Johnson, Medtronic and Merck.

Morehouse is a recent recipient of a $40 million COVID-19 Resiliency Network grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and has been at the forefront of biomedical and clinical research initiatives to address diseases that disproportionately affect minority communities.

Morehouse and CommonSpirit will contribute $21 million in seed money in the first two years, with a goal of spearheading a 10-year, $100 million initiative that invites the support of individual donors, industry partners and philanthropic organizations.