HBCU med school to be ‘a beacon’ for communities underrepresented in medicine

Xavier University of Louisiana, a Historically Black University (HBCU) in New Orleans and the nation’s only Catholic HBCU, will establish a new medical school “​​to address long-standing health disparities and foster stronger, healthier communities in pursuit of the mission to promote a more just and humane society,” Xavier University president Reynold Verret said in a statement this week. The new Xavier Ochsner College of Medicine (XOCOM) will be headquartered in New Orleans’ BioDistrict, which has helped grow the state’s biosciences sector and health care services and is part of a local economy still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, Diverse Issues in Higher Education reports.

Related: New efforts to diversify medical school classes >

Formed by a partnership with the nonprofit health care system Ochsner Health, XOCOM will join the nation’s four other HBCU medical schools: Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

XOCOM will be the only HBCU medical school in the Gulf South when it opens in three years. It will initially admit 50 new students and, according to Diverse Issues In Higher Education, eventually increase to 100 in each cohort.

Building a more inclusive physician workforce

XOCOM will be “a beacon of hope for Black and Brown young kids throughout the region, where they can see physicians who look like them,” said Leonardo Seoane, inaugural dean of XOCOM and executive vice president and chief academic officer of Ochsner Health. Research shows there is a pressing need for more physicians, especially those from diverse backgrounds. The U.S. will experience a physician shortage of up to 86,000 physicians by 2036, says the Association of American Medical Colleges. Louisiana is projected to be the state with the third largest shortage of physicians, gaps that will be especially pronounced in rural and underserved communities, the university says.

Meanwhile, Black Americans account for 14.4% of the U.S. population but just 5.7% of US physicians, while Latine Americans make up 19% of the U.S. population but 6.9% of physicians.

Leaders hope the establishment of a new HBCU medical school “will inspire bold efforts to expand inclusiveness, in terms of access to careers and health care in the U.S,” Derek Robinson, Xavier alumnus, board member, and divisional senior vice president and chief medical officer at Health Care Service Corporation in Chicago, tells Diverse Issues in Higher Education. “It’s not an obligation that Xavier carries alone, it’s the collect[ive] efforts of universities and local health partners across the country to make a difference.”

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