Morgan State University to Open First HBCU Medical School in 50 Years
Reviewer & Writer
Reviewer & Writer
For the first time in nearly half a century, a historically Black college and university (HBCU) is set to open a new medical school. Planning for the Maryland College of Osteopathic Medicine (MDCOM) is currently underway at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, set to welcome its first student class in 2025.
MDCOM will join four other HBCUs that currently operate medical schools. These include:
- Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., established in 1868
- Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville, Tennessee, established in 1876
- Charles Drew Medical School in Los Angeles, California, founded in 1966
- Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, founded in 1975
Morgan State's new medical school will be the first osteopathic facility at an HBCU and the only one in the Northeast. Proponents of osteopathic medicine say that it utilizes a whole-person, holistic, and preventative approach, treating the entire person and not just the symptoms. The traditional allopathic, or “MD,” approach relies on medications and surgery to treat illnesses.
John W. Sealey, a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) and a fellow with the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, is the medical school's founding dean. Sealey said Black students are underrepresented in medical schools, citing data that indicated very low percentages — Black women made up just 4.4% of those enrolled in medical school in 2019, while Black men comprised just 2.9%, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
MDCOM aims to increase the number of Black physicians and serve Baltimore's Black communities by providing access to physicians who look like them — a factor long associated with better patient care, including greater patient satisfaction and a higher likelihood the patient will adhere to medical advice.
As a longstanding advocate for the osteopathic profession, Sealey says it's vital to inform the community of the HBCU-based medical school and what it means to osteopathic care.
When physicians use a holistic approach, the patient will feel more connected. When the patient is connected, the benefits are an improvement of general population health, Sealey told BestColleges.
Medical schools associated with historically Black institutions are nothing new, according to the Journal of the National Medical Association. Between 1868 and 1975, HBCUs established 16 medical schools. However, the majority lacked the funding or enrollment to survive. One of the premier institutions of its time was the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. The school opened in 1882 and graduated nearly 400 physicians before closing in 1918.
Why Open an HBCU Medical School?
Black students who attend predominantly white institutions can often experience microaggressions and racism, which can be discouraging, according to Sealey. Research backs this up. Just one in 30 Black medical students said they hadn't experienced racism during their education, according to research published in the Journal of the National Medical Association.
According to the NEJM report, HBCU medical schools are essentially keeping the nation's population of Black male medical students afloat. Despite there being only four HBCU medical schools in the country, 15% of Black male medical students are enrolled in them. Without these schools, Black male medical student enrollment would've seen even less progress.
The numbers in the field aren't much better. Only 5.7% of physicians are Black, and a Health Services Research study found that zip codes with majority African American residents were 67% more likely to face a primary care shortage.
But Sealey said that establishing medical schools at HBCUs will help address the shortage and maldistribution of physicians of color while teaching students how to treat the community. According to Sealey, medicine at MDCOM will be more personalized. Training in the areas mostly populated by Black residents will aid in this goal.
What Will Morgan State's Medical School Be Like?
Sealey believes in his medical school's ability to help improve healthcare in Black communities. From his own experiences, as well as the data that has emerged through national studies, he believes Black patients get better faster when their doctors look like them.
He earned his undergraduate degree at an HBCU, North Carolina Central University, and graduated from Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has been a cardiothoracic surgeon for over 25 years and trained students for decades. His work in low-income communities has allowed him a strong understanding of the health conditions residents face.
With his background, Sealey's mission at MDCOM is to
produce caring, competent, diverse osteopathic physicians for all the specialties of medicine.
The first two years of medical school at MDCOM will be academically focused, and in the last two years, students will train at clinics and hospitals, learning how to connect with their patients. MDCOM is currently establishing clinical partnerships with John Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, and other institutions in the Baltimore and D.C. metropolitan area.
Until they can open their doors, however, there is still much to be done. For example, the school must complete its pre-accreditation processes with the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) before accepting students — full accreditation is only possible once the first class graduates. Sealey expects roughly 90 students in the first year, 135 in the second year, and 180 in the third.
Sealey is confident in MDCOM's potential impact on the community, citing the importance of representation.
When these men and women walk into the room with their white coats on, it will tell young children that there is a future in medicine and create a pipeline, Sealey said.
It will be significant in building the upper middle class and demonstrate how to continue to be a pillar in the community.
Interested applicants can email firstname.lastname@example.org.