Blacks in Cardiology: How More Young People Can Be Recruited

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TAMPA, Fla. – After speaking with some of the nation’s leading heart doctors at the Association of Black Cardiologists conference recently, the message was clear: More effort is needed to recruit African American cardiologists at a much earlier age than has been done, even with primary school students who demonstrate an interest in science and health.

“We have to continue to do things like we’re doing now — increasing awareness and reaching out to our young people. That’s a start,” said Dr. Marcus Williams, a cardiologist from northern New Jersey who also serves as association president. “You have to have a pipeline because to become a physician is a long process that really begins in elementary school and tracks through college and then medical school on to training as a cardiologist. So, it has to be put on people’s minds.”

One roadblock is the intense competition for cardiology training, says Dr. Laurence Watkins, who practices in Port St. Lucie, Fla., near West Palm Beach. Cost is another obstacle that scares away prospective cardiologists when it should not.


“There is the difficulty of funding of black [HBCU medical] schools. Right now, you have Howard, Meharry and Morehouse School of Medicine,“ Watkins noted. “When I first started in 1981, there were only about 70 black cardiologists in the country. That has increased five-fold as a result of many more physicians being admitted.”

While there are medical training schools throughout the country who have never admitted an African American to their cardiology programs, Watkins states, there are other schools as well as companies who are sympathetic to the association’s goals and are trying to help.


Dr. Boise Barnes, a cardiologist at Howard University, says there simply needs to be more blacks in the vast field of medicine, in general.

“Most people are not aware of what doctors do. Even if you don’t become a cardiologist, there are so many other fields connected with medicine in one way or another. We have to improve our education and outreach,” Barnes said. “We have to break the barriers in our inner city. We have more African American males in jail than in college. So, we have to reach them early, and that’s not being done.”

Williams encourages young people and families to refer to the black cardiologist website, www.abcardio.org, to learn about various cardiology programs and scholarships that may be applicable to their educational and tuition needs.

terry shropshire

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