Using History to Inspire Young African Americans to Pursue Health Careers

Building the foundation for teaching and studying the history and promotion of African-American health professionals

Dates of Project: 2008 through 2011

Field of Work: Minorities in the health professions

Problem Synopsis: Major health disparities exist in the United States among racial and ethnic groups, with minority populations dying younger—often from preventable illnesses. Some researchers hypothesize that the low percentage of African American health professionals is attributable in part to the fact that few courses on medical, American, or African American history include information on minorities’ involvement in and contributions to the health fields.

Synopsis of the Work: A medical historian identified collections of oral histories, videos, manuscripts, books, images, and other materials at seven institutions around the country and two national depositories.

Key Results:

  • The medical historian reviewed and annotated the materials, and updated a guide to the collections held by the National Library of Medicine, but the guide was not republished.
  • She developed five course curricula based on the resources, and taught a short course using one curriculum.
  • Efforts began to create a website to host the reviews of archival materials and the course curricula, but were not completed.
  • The medical historian persuaded the National Library of Medicine to digitize and preserve some of its collections on African American health professionals.