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 or chemistry.
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."