BETHESDA, Md--Of the more than 30 million African-Americans in
the United States today, fewer than 60 are board-certified oncologists,
according to an NIH research report on minority health.
"This situation reflects the larger problem of too few minorities
in research and medical careers all across the board," said
Otis Brawley, MD, NCI senior investigator and one of only three
blacks out of 104 in the 1985 graduating class at the University
of Chicago Medical School.
Some Schools Offer No Biology
Obstacles exist at all levels for black students interested in
careers in science and medicine, the report said. According to
Nelson Canton of the National Education Association, about 30%
of inner city high schools with large minority enrollments have
no physics classes, and about 17% offer no courses in biology
Even in schools with a good science curriculum, black students
have an economic disincentive to go into research, said Walter
Sullivan, PhD, vice president for health promotion at Morehouse
School of Medicine in Atlanta.
"When a typical student, African- American or white, graduates
from medical school, he or she often has a huge debt that must
be paid back," Dr. Sullivan said. "The last thing minorities
can afford to do is to invest in more training or take a job in
a relatively low paying field such as science. They may really
want to do research, but they just can't afford it."