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Race In Medicine - Part IV :: Dr. Quincy -- The Power of the Butterfly

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On Friday, May 16, Quincy Almond graduated from the medical school at UC San Francisco, one of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions.

Little did Quincy know, no matter how seemingly remote to an ailing child in South Los Angeles, his achievement has far reaching implications like a butterfly fluttering its wings and ultimately causing a hurricane.

Watching this young man emerge for the traditional hooding, witnessing the exhilaration of his father, mother, host of siblings, friends and classmates, I could only step back a mere five years and remember a heartbroken Quincy at the crossroads of his most formidable challenge.

Despite a stellar academic performance in UC Riverside's maligned Bio Medical Sciences Program, in 1998, Quincy's dream of becoming a doctor was shattered. The Phi Beta Kappa graduate was systemically eliminated from the program and left to ponder the truly devastating policies governing medical school admissions and how best to press on.

As we begin to consider possible U.S. Supreme Court rulings in The University of Michigan cases, we seem to miss the point of how truly devastating a ruling that makes race conscious decisions unlawful would be for our society.

We understand the short-term realities - that such a decision would limit the numbers of minorities on college campuses - but it's often difficult to understand the long-term problems that would arise from a lack of diversity in higher education. In medical education, however, the long-term consequences are clear. A ruling that makes the use of race in college admissions unlawful would severely harm the health of the nation.

Up until the 1960s, medical schools were segregated as most other institutions in American society.

Three quarters of all African-American physicians were trained at the country's two historically Black medical schools, Howard University and Meharry Medical College. The other 81 medical schools at the time averaged one Black student every other year.

The past four decades have seen a great deal of progress, but there is still a great deal of work to be done if medical schools are to accurately reflect our society. A just society must ensure that equal opportunity exists for all that are both qualified and interested in pursuing a career in medicine. With the current crisis in healthcare, diversity in medical education is essential in cultural care, research and service.

Dr. Qunicy Almond was one of a handful of minorities receiving the MD that day. Congratulations, Quincy, you are one of us‚ now. You hold the keys to generations of others like you. Somewhere in the world, there is a proverbial butterfly beating its wings, starting a wave of reactions that may soon cause hurricane-force winds to beat down the doors at UC Riverside and howl at the steps the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dr. Levister welcomes reader mail concerning their body but regrets that he is not able to answer individual letters. Your letters will be incorporated into the column as space permits. You may direct your letters to Dr. Levister in care of Black Voice News, P.O. Box 1581, Riverside, CA 92502.

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