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Xavier’s president testifies on Capitol Hill about the need for a more diverse health care workforce

A Dillard University public health professor agrees
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST
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Xavier University President Dr. Reynold Verret testified before a Senate panel on the need to...
Xavier University President Dr. Reynold Verret testified before a Senate panel on the need to increase the number of minorities in health care and other fields of science.(Source: U.S. Senate)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - There are not just health care disparities among patients but there is also a shortage of people of color in health care jobs and the sciences and some experts say that can impact health outcomes.

COVID-19 cases spotlighted health disparities among African Americans and other minorities. A disparity is a significant difference. And on Thursday Xavier University President Reynold Verret, Ph.D. testified on Capitol Hill about the need to attract more people of color to the medical field and the sciences.

“Much more must be done to develop a representative community of healthcare providers and scientists positioned to reduce and eliminate health disparities, Verret told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Verret who is a biochemist and immunologist said Xavier continues to work toward that end. Xavier is renowned for sending graduates to medical schools.

“Our new programs target professions, in which only 1% to 3.5% of practitioners identify as African American,” Verret stated. “Their diversity is critical to provide equitable healthcare outcomes.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, is a medical doctor and was part of the Senate Hearing.

“So, the facilities are as important as the faculty?” Cassidy asked Verret.

Verret answered, “As important as the faculty because one needs laboratories, one needs the equipment.”

He also told the senators that Pell grants for low-income students need to be doubled and other financial resources are needed for historically black colleges and universities.

“American cannot afford to develop only a subset of its talent,” said Verret.

Rachel Reed, DrPh., is a chair of Dillard University’s School of Health and Wellness. Dillard is another HBCU in New Orleans.

“I agree with him because working in this setting you see students that their number 1 barrier to being able to focus on college, to be able to attend college at all is always financial,” said Reed.

She said data shows diversity is important in health care settings.

“Research has shown over and over again that having physicians, having nurses, having public health practitioners who look like the community that we are serving improves patient satisfaction. It improves compliance to medical advice,” said Reed.

Past negative actions in health care like the Tuskegee experiment have caused some blacks to distrust doctors.

“Absolutely, distrust really does play a role in it, of course coming into the room with a provider that looks like you, it absolutely, it calms anxiety,” said Reed. “Having people of color in our health care system overall is imperative to move toward health equity. So, health equity essentially just means that everyone has an opportunity and the resources that they need to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

Verret also addressed the spate of bomb threats to HBCUs including Xavier as he addressed the senators.

“We as a community of institutions are still processing the cowardly acts of terror which have disrupted so many HBCUs,” he said.

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