By Jose Corea & Lee Ragin, Jr.
It is known within the Black community that disparities and differential treatment range from education, employment, governmental issues and healthcare. In a series of symposia scheduled at the University of California, Riverside by Dr. Carolyn Murray, healthcare was the focus of Black Voice News columnist Ernest C. Levister, Jr., M.D. F.A.C.P., F.A.C.P.M., as he spoke on the topic, "Impacting Health Care Disparities A Case for Diversity: University of California Riverside."
Locally, Inland Southern California - the counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial - face a growing shortfall of physicians. As of 2002, the diverse and rapidly growing region had one of the lowest ratios of generalist physicians per 100,000 population in the state, at less than 60.
This disparity is due partly to the shortfall of training afforded minority students within the medical profession, which is why the James Wesley Vines Medical Society desires to "level the playing field."
The Vines Society, a component of the National Medical Association began a grassroots movement to increase public awareness, frame the healthcare disparity problem, and develop policies to address the unequal care among minorities.
They (Vines) noted striking irregularities in the UC system's program of education, in particular, UCR's seven-year bio-medical science program.
They called for an investigation that uncovered that UCR's program with its "mandated failure", not only impacted the under-represented, discouraging science and health careers, but impacted all students, families and the community.
It was also discovered that in a 20-year history, UCR's bio-medical program had one African American and twelve Latino students that finished the program.
"This problem was ignored by officials. They didn't see it as a problem," stated Levister.
He continued: "The 2003 action by the California Legislature closing down the first 3 years of the UC Riverside Haider UCLA Bio-Medical Science program represents the first time in the UC system's 135 year history that the state ordered the restructuring of an UC academic program without the consent, advice, or vote of the University Academic Senate.
"This grassroots effort by the Vines Medical Society, a component of the NMA, led to the radical restructuring of the UC Riverside Haider UCLA Bio Medical Science program which cleared the way for UCR to create a four year medical school.
"The Vines continues to work with UCR and believes in the philosophy that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it."
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