There is a severe national shortage of physician-leaders who are committed to the health of underserved communities. African Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population yet account for just 4% of its doctors. Hispanics are similarly underrepresented – 15% vs. 5% of doctors – and the gap is even larger for Native Americans.*
Since 1946, National Medical Fellowships (NMF) has given more than $40 million in need-based awards to minority students pursuing medical careers or doctoral degrees in health policy and research. NMF funds help students avoid large student loans, so they can more readily pursue primary care rather than higher-paying medical specialties. The result: more talented doctors delivering basic health care in underserved communities. The medical school population receiving NMF support is, on average, 70% African American, 20% Hispanic and 10% Native American.
The Aetna Foundation has partnered with NMF to develop programs to recognize promising medical students who are committed to serving medically underserved communities. The partnership has created:
• Healthcare Leadership Program – Awards $5,000 scholarships to second- or third-year medical students with outstanding academic achievement and potential for distinguished contributions to medicine.
• Primary Care Fellows Program – A mentored service-learning program that provides a $10,000 scholarship to each participating medical student. The program encourages use of technology, health policy review and leadership training in a variety of health care-related settings in Washington, DC.
Recipients of Aetna Foundation-NMF scholarships and fellowships leave medical school with an improved capacity to become leaders in community health care. In 2014, the Healthcare Leadership Program supported 10 medical students. The Primary Care Fellows Program supported 10 fellows. These fellows each completed a community health project focused on health information technology, health policy or primary care delivery.
* Source: U.S. Census data and the American Medical Association Physician Master file.