March 23, 2023

Olympia Fields, Illinois — Heart patient Jerrilyn Young said it makes a big difference that her cardiologist is Black. 

“He talks to me,” said Young. “A lot of Black people won’t go to doctors because they don’t have anybody that talks to them. They tell them what to do without asking them how they actually feel.” 

When Black patients see Black doctors, they are more likely to get preventative care, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Sixty percent of African Americans have cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. But fewer than 3% of cardiologists are Black, according to to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

More diversity among cardiologists would save lives, said Dr. Michelle Albert, the president of the American Heart Association and the only Black cardiologist at University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. 

“Structural racism and the fact that persons of color have been systematically excluded from being part of the process that enables you to become a doctor in the first place,” she said of why there is so little diversity. 

Black medical residents have less access to mentors and face racial bias from both colleagues and patients, Albert said. 

“I walk into a room, they think that I’m the cleaning person,” she said. 

When Dr. Jamarcus Brider, a medical resident, was growing up, his grandfather had congestive heart failure but didn’t trust his doctor. 

“I told him before his passing that I put every effort into becoming an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist in order to decrease the burden of cardiovascular disease in our people,” Brider said. 

Brider said when Black patients see him walk into an exam room “their eyes light up” and they tell him “how proud they are” of him. 

The American College of Cardiology offers a mentorship program to try and increase diversity in the field, which Brider is a part of. 

Young, one of his patients, is rooting for him. 

“I want him to do good!” she said. 

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