According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 5% of physicians identify as Black or African American. A young medical student launched an organization with the hope of changing that statistic and helping more Black youth have careers in medicine.
“My name, Ifeanyichukwu, means nothing’s impossible with God,” said Ifeanyichukwu “Iffy” Ozobu.
Like his Nigerian name, Ozobu believes everything is possible. He's now a second-year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine. In 2019, he and some classmates set out to change the number of Black doctors in the U.S. Ozobu said right now, the percentage is even lower than it was in the 1970s.
“It should be higher than it is today especially because of the need we see, especially during COVID with the racial disparities and medical inequality being highlighted more due to COVID and all these issues popping up,” Ozobu said.
They worked with the university and officially formed a club called Black Male Doctors to help one another succeed through medical school and support others who wish to get there.
“We decided to form BMD as a way to just have a community around us because, like they say, ‘When you want to do things faster in life, you go alone, but if you want to go the long way, you do it together,’” Ozobu said.
He added with the pandemic, it's been a nice way to keep in touch and connect during a time of isolation. Since its launch, the organization has doubled in membership and it’s getting attention from students at other schools.
“They found out more about our club and wanted to collaborate and try to form a bigger network overall,” Ozobu said.
“When you see your students doing well, you just have to smile,” said Dr. Ricardo Hood, chair and associate professor of clinical foundations at Ross University.
Hood has helped the club with events.
“When you get to go to medical school as a Black male, it’s heroic,” Hood said. “It’s such an abnormality so I think it’s great that they created an organization designed to support themselves but not one designed to eliminate other influence.”
The organization's mission is personal to him. A cloud has hung over the family since 1959, when his cousin, Marion Gerald Hood, applied to Emory University's School of Medicine. They sent him a letter denying his admission.
“I want it to no longer be an issue in America that because of the color of your skin you are denied entry,” Hood said.
When asked about that letter, Emory University said, "The letter from 1959 is a somber reminder of a time when generations of talented young men and women were denied educational opportunities because of their race".
The university highlighted actions Emory is taking for racial justice, and is committed to providing a more equitable, just, and inclusive community. Emory admitted its first Black student in 1963, four years after Marion Gerald Hood was denied entry.
“I will say I believe Emory to be different today. But the mentality of the majority schools haven’t changed drastically just yet,” Dr. Ricardo Hood said.
As for Ozobu, he knows change starts with our youth and is now working with his former high school counselor.
"He helped me along my journey to get here, to get to medical school and we talked about doing something similar,” Ozobu said,“involving other people, my classmates, who are in dental school or in their respective grad school.”
He hopes to lead to change the future and knowing that our dark past will never be repeated.