Black physicians look to inspire next generation to health care careers
Raschard Buie Jr. maneuvered some blue bands around a representation of wounded human leg.
The eighth grader from Cedar Crest Middle School in Lebanon County was learning how to apply a tourniquet to someone who is bleeding.
Raschard was among more than 200 students to attend the first WellSpan Health Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit on Saturday at William Penn Senior High School in York City.
While Raschard’s leanings are geared more toward a career in law, attending the summit had him thinking about the medical field, something his sister is already interested in.
“She wants to be in the medical field, so that’s why we came here,” he said. “So far, I think it’s pretty good. I learned a lot. Me, personally, I never really thought about coming into the medical field. I always wanted to go into the law field. So, this has been a really good experience for me. So, maybe in the future I can go into the medical field.”
The idea of the summit is to inspire all students, and especially Black male, female and non-binary youth, with stories from real people who look just like them. The summit is building off the Black Men in White Coats initiative that dates back to 2013, when it was created to address the country’s lack of Black male physicians and the decreasing number of Black men applying to medical school.
Natalie Charles-Barnes, an eighth-grade homeschool student, aspires to become a surgeon someday. Her mother is in the medical field, and she always wanted to become a doctor.
“I hope to get some experience here today and learn some things,” Natalie said.
Keynote speakers for the event were Dr. Russell Ledet, who co-founded The 15 White Coats, an organization that helps minority students to the next levels of education by providing inspiration and economic support, and Dr. Carlos Roberts, vice president and chief medical officer of Women’s and Children’s Services with WellSpan Health.
Both men are from different parts of the world. Ledet grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Roberts grew up in Trinidad and Tabago.
“We share a lot of things in common,” Roberts said. “We came from humble beginnings. Didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we knew where to do it.”
One of the things Ledet wanted to impress on those attending was what he achieved took hard work.
“You’re going to have to get down in the mud,” Ledet told them. “And it’s going to cost you something. It’s going to cost you something right now. You are going to have to study.”
Ledet said there is no way you can compete with other students for what you want unless you work hard at it. That hit home with Raschard.
“It was very impactful to me,” Raschard said. “I feel like the work ethic that both of them have is a really good thing to have. Recently, I’ve been struggling with my work ethic. I think coming here today is really going to help me.”
Roberts said he is hoping to inspire those attending to get into the medical field, no matter what their background is.
“We really struggle to get people of color and also minorities in general into the medical profession,” Roberts said. “A lot of that comes from the fact that they don’t believe that is something they could achieve. They don’t have resources. They don’t feel like they are set up for success.”
Roberts said it’s important for minorities to get into the medical field because they share similar life experiences with those they are serving in the community.
“It actually results in better outcomes for our patients. Better compliance with medications. It’s really a drive towards kind of mimicking our population and the demographic of our population in the medical fraternity,” Roberts said.
Roberts has lived in York for 18 years and likes giving back to the community.
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“I’m committed to this community,” he said. “I am dedicated to ensuring that we get our community and the health of our community to where it needs to be. Part of that journey is inspiring the next generation.”
Roberts said he was excited to see kids come in with their parents.
“The fact that they came here and showed up this morning, we’ve won already,” he said. “I think we’re going to change some lives here. I really do believe it.”
Ledet said inspiring the next generation is everything.
“I want kids to believe they can be a doctor like me. Look like me. Sound like me. Talk like me ...” Ledet said. “We know health outcomes are better if we have more minority physicians taking care of minority families. I just want to make sure I’m doing my part to ensure the next generation is better than we are right now. "