Thomas Landefeld: Curing Minority Disparities in the Medical Profession
Thomas Landefeld, professor of biology, presented “Leaks in the Minority Student Pipeline: Do faculty mend them or create them?” and “Careers in Endocrinology” at Voorhees Technical College in Denmark, SC.
Landefeld is the program director of the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Degree program, which prepares minority science students from community colleges to transfer to CSU Dominguez Hills and facilitates their graduation with a bachelor’s degree in the sciences. He describes how faculty either mend or create leaks in the minority student pipeline by serving as mentors to their students or by not responding to their needs.
“Until more faculty become sensitive and receptive to the issues that have traditionally excluded minority students in the past, the effect on changing their under-representation will be minimal,” he states. “Medical schools are being asked to address this, in part, by requiring “cultural competency” as part of their curriculum.”
The disparity of minorities in the medical profession and in the treatment of patients is underscored by Landefeld, who says that, “One does not have to be a minority to be concerned with this issue. However, since certain diseases affect minorities disproportionately, individuals from those groups have a personal interest in addressing and resolving these problems.
“For example, it has been over 50 years since sickle cell anemia was identified, and one has to believe that significantly more progress would have been made on the treatment of the disease if more African Americans had been involved in the field of biomedicine, in addition to the fact that less research was done because it was a disease that did not affect the majority population.”
Landefeld’s talk on careers in endocrinology also focused on the dearth of minority representation in that field, and the opportunities available for academics, clinicians, researchers, and public health professionals.
Voorhees Technical College is part of the network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and is supported by the United Negro College Fund. Landefeld’s visit was sponsored by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology as a career development seminar for students and faculty.
- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore