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Major Threat to Howard University School of Medicine - And How You Can Help

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The long-term viability of Howard University School of Medicine is is under threat. There is a plan to build a new hospital in SE Washington, DC, which is great because it is needed. For years, Howard University has served the patients of DC's Wards 7 and 8 when other hospitals refused. The problem? The new deal with Universal/George Washington excludes Howard faculty, residents, and students from serving our patients and providing training experiences for minority students and docs. It would be a huge drop in revenue for Howard and the medical school would struggle to remain afloat with the decrease in patient volume. Howard is asking to be included, and rightfully so.

OurselvesBlack reached out to Black Mental Health leader, Howard Med. Alum and Current Assistant Professor of Psychiatry there Dr. Danielle Hairston for more information. Here is what she shared with us.

OB: What is the role of HBCU medical schools in promoting black mental health?

Dr. Hairston: An important issue in psychiatry and medicine, as whole, is the lack of diversity, especially concerning black doctors. Many Black patients do not have the opportunity to see psychiatrists who look like them. HBCU medical schools, like Howard University, are working to promote diversity in psychiatry and mental health. HBCU medical schools are changing the face of mental health by educating more psychiatrists who look like their patients. Also, their efforts target decreasing stigma in Black mental health and medicine. 

OB: What is the role of HBCU medical schools in increasing the numbers of  black mental health providers?

Dr. Hairston: HBCUs are the driving force behind the pipeline of Black and other minority mental health providers in the nation. HBCUs rank among the top producers of Black doctors among colleges and universities.  Howard University ranks #1 for producing Black applicants to U.S. medical schools.

OB: What kinds of mental health services does Howard Med. provide to our community in the DC metro area?

Dr. Hairston: Howard University's mission is, and has always been, to improve the health outcomes among the DC’s most vulnerable populations. Since the 1800s, Howard University Hospital  (HUH) has served as a reliable mental healthcare provider for all underserved populations. Howard University Hospital's Department of Psychiatry has recently embarked on a mental health community outreach program that goes into DC's Wards 7 and 8 communities to meet our patients where they are. Howard University hospital has been serving our patients for years, when other DC hospitals would not. 

OB: How could the proposed hospital changes impact HU Med and it's ability to continue serving?

Unfortunately, the new proposed hospital excludes Howard University Hospital and College of Medicine faculty, residents, and students from serving our patients and providing training experiences for minority students and young doctors. Without an equal opportunity for Howard to be included in the new East End hospital, the proposed deal will cause a decline in revenue and patients at HUH, causing insufficient volume for training medical students and residents. This will hinder Howard's mission. 

What can be done to help advocate for HU med.?

Write and share. Contact DC's Mayor Bowser and DC City council to advocate for our patients, students, and residents. HU College of Medicine is a staple in the city's health care community, educating more African American and minority medical students on an annual basis than GW, Georgetown, and the University of Maryland combined. Please speak out to stop the disruption of the pipeline of minority physicians that serve DC and the nation. You can use this link to email Mayor Bowser and the city council in DC.

Sarah Y. Vinson