The University of Colorado School of Medicine announced Monday the establishment of an endowed scholarship fund to support Black and other underrepresented medical students.
The $2 million Charles J. Blackwood, MD, Endowed Memorial Scholarship, named after the school’s first Black graduate, was organized by the Mile High Medical Society, a Denver-based group of Black health professionals.
Blackwood, who graduated from the medical school in 1947 after earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from CU Boulder, was in the top 10 of his class. The Trinidad-born Coloradan could only sit in certain places in his lecture halls and lived in separate housing from his classmates, CU said.
Among other accomplishments, Blackwood opened a private practice; served three years in the U.S. Air Force, during which time he opened the Radiology Department at Hamilton Air Force Base in California; and was the first African American clinical professor of medicine at the CU School of Medicine.
The fund in Blackwood’s name initially will provide money for full scholarships for at least four students with the intention that the endowment to grow and support more scholars in the future, according to a CU School of Medicine news release.
“We need more diversity among health care providers to improve the quality of care for everyone in our community,” said Terri Richardson, Mile High Medical Society member and internist at Kaiser Permanente. “This scholarship fund will make it possible for more students to achieve their dreams and our medical system will be improved by their contributions.”
Private donors contributed more than $1 million, the School of Medicine provided $1 million in matching funds and CU President Mark Kennedy authorized an additional $1 million for current use, the news release read.
Data reveals a significant disparity in the number of Black or African American men and women in the United States working toward becoming a physician. Six percent, or 2,782, of the 45,675 men enrolled in U.S. medical schools this academic year are Black or African American and 9% of women — 4,343 out of 48,530 are Black or African American.
In 2015, fewer than 2% of the incoming class at the School of Medicine on CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora identified as Black or African American compared to 6% in 2020.
To recruit Black and other underrepresented students, the CU School of Medicine has boosted scholarship funds to those communities in recent years to compete with other schools.
“We have been actively working to improve the quality of care in our community in many ways,” said John J. Reilly, Jr., vice chancellor for health affairs and dean at CU School of Medicine “Last year, our faculty joined with a partner to open a federally qualified health center that is serving our neighbors in Aurora. We have been offering scholarships to boost diversity in our medical school. We have a program that provides an incentive to departments in recruiting diverse faculty. We are having success, but we can do more.”
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