'You Absolutely Can Do It.' Broward Health Wants To Help More Black Students Pursue Medical Careers
Like much of the United States, South Florida is facing a shortage of doctors who will retire in the coming years. Some are facing burnout from grueling COVID-19 work, and there’s especially a need for more Black doctors.
The Broward Health system has added 40 slots for medical residents over the last couple of years. They’re now training 191 new doctors this academic year, up from 151 in the 2019-2020 year.
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WLRN’s Verónica Zaragovia spoke with Dr. Patricia Rowe-King, who heads Broward Health’s graduate medical education office and Dr. Jean Dominique Foureau, a first-year emergency medicine resident who grew up mostly in Pompano Beach.
Below is an excerpt of their conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.
WLRN: Dr. Rowe-King, tell us about the changes at Broward Health. How important is it to keep your residents in Broward County? Are there efforts to do that?
ROWE-KING: In the next 10 to 20 years or so, approximately two out of every five physicians that are currently practicing will be over the age of 65. It is unclear at this moment whether COVID-19 will increase the rate of retirement faster because of burnout and other things, but even without COVID-19, about two out of every five of us that are practicing now will be over 65 and will have retired. We have not been able to train physicians fast enough to keep up with the demand of people leaving our workforce. So we have set up this huge physician shortage and the need to train physicians to fill it.
As we are facing severe health care provider shortages in the next 10 to 30 years, Broward Health has stepped up to provide and train residents. We know that residents are more likely to practice in the state where they complete their graduate medical education training. So what we are currently doing is we are expanding our training programs to include all of our hospitals. All of our four hospitals will act as clinical training sites for our residents.
What would Broward Health do to fill slots with more Black medical school students?
ROWE-KING: What graduate medical education is doing is that we're partnering with medical schools. We're engaging in various mentorship projects. We are entering into relationships with the Broward County School Board to be able to reach out to children from elementary school and up that are interested in STEM professions — science, technology, engineering and math professions — to help them to understand these are the things that you need to do to go into health care professions. Our residents will be mentoring these children one on one and in large-group settings. Our medical staff will also be working with these children.
The residents will mentor one on one with the children that are interested in the STEM professions so that they can see who residents are there, their age groups, what they did to get here. We’ll put out some of the barriers, money, time and so forth, and give them resources that they can use and look up to be able to get to where they want to be. The message we're telling everybody is that it's essentially important that we have everybody participating, and if health care is something you're interested in, you absolutely can do it. We'd love to have you as a part of our community.
FOUREAU: I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. King. The start to [bringing] in more physicians of color into the field begins in stages of elementary to middle school to high school. So I think it's very important to go into these schools and start community outreach programs that give them a chance to tour hospitals, set up programs where we're tutoring kids, where they get a chance to get access to possibly residents, attendings. Give them an exposure to doctors that look like them, who sound like them, talk like them, who are from the same areas as them. I've never known physicians growing up. I’m the first physician in my family, the only physician in my family in the United States.
Dr. Foureau, I know that you enlisted in the U.S. Army as a medic, as a path to become a doctor. So I wanted to ask you, why you were committed to this career for so long?
FOUREAU: My mother was a nurse all her career. I've seen how hard she worked. I’ve seen how respected she was by the community for the work that she does and become an older start to understanding what it means to commit your life to medicine. I started realizing I really do enjoy emergency medicine. Being in the Army as a medic made me realize that I enjoyed being one of the first points of contact for a patient when they're pretty much at their worst or whatever they think their worst is.
You're also from Broward County, and I wanted to ask you why you would like to practice medicine in Broward County? What about this region attracts you?
FOUREAU: That’s the dream, to be able to be in South Florida, be in Broward County, practicing as a physician. I'm also of Haitian descent. It's a very large Haitian population down here. A lot of them, they don't speak fluent English. So I would love to be able to be that voice for them, when they come to the emergency room, rather than having an interpreter somewhere that could be there and speak their language and can understand what they're going through and understand them — understand their culture. So that's the goal — to be able to help the people from this community for the rest of my career.
Majority of the time I lived in Pompano Beach, Florida. I went to Deerfield Beach High School. My brother, he's a social worker. He runs a community program for high school, middle school kids. One of the first things I was able to do is go to Deerfield Beach Middle a couple of weeks ago and speak to the kids. That little bit of a start means so much to the kids because they get to see somebody who came from the same community as them, who looks like them and sounds like them, but they are a physician.