Newswise — DALLAS – Jan. 29, 2021 – The importance of increasing the number of Black male doctors in the United States will be the subject of a virtual panel discussion at UT Southwestern in advance of the release of a documentary on the issue.

For the past decade, Dale Okorodudu, M.D., an African American pulmonologist and critical care specialist who is an assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, has been working to increase the number of young Black men going into medicine through his initiative Black Men in White Coats. Now he has produced a documentary by the same name alongside director Micah Autry. The film, produced independent of UT Southwestern, will be screened virtually by medical schools nationwide throughout the month of February.  

On Feb. 4, UT Southwestern, along with Southwestern Medical District partner institutions Children’s Health and Parkland Health & Hospital System, will host a virtual panel discussion around issues presented in the film.

The panel will include Okorodudu; Quinn Capers IV, M.D., associate dean for faculty diversity at UT Southwestern; Barry-Lewis Harris II, M.D., medical director of correctional health services at Parkland; Cameron Holmes, a third-year medical student at UT Southwestern; and Marc Nivet, Ed.D., executive vice president for institutional advancement at UT Southwestern, who will moderate the discussion. Both Capers and Nivet are featured in the documentary, in which Black doctors share their experiences of going to medical school, discuss the challenges faced in their careers, and reinforce the importance of creating a pipeline to produce more Black male physicians.

“What I want people to take away from this is a sense of empowerment,” Okorodudu says. “I hope when people watch this film they understand the problem impacts them and that they can have a role in fixing it and providing solutions – whether it’s serving as a mentor or, for the Black student, working hard so that you can become a medical professional.”

Register for the virtual panel discussion on Feb. 4.

Struck by the dismal statistic that only 2 percent of U.S. doctors are Black men, Okorodudu in 2013 committed himself to galvanize the academic medical community and the public to tackle the problem. The issue was amplified in 2015 when the Association of American Medical Colleges released a report, based on a study led by Nivet, that revealed the number of Black male medical school applicants was lower in 2014 than in 1978.

Diversity advocates say closing the diversity gap is critical to eliminating mistrust among African Americans about the American health care system based on experiences of bias and a history of unethical medical experimentations performed on Black patients. This mistrust is a contributing factor to existing health care disparities affecting Black patients, including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the African American community.

“Research shows that more Black physicians will result in more Black people getting vaccines, following preventive health measures, and having open heart surgery. In short, more Black male doctors will translate into more lives saved,” says Capers, who is a cardiologist and holds the Rody P. Cox, M.D., Professorship in Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern.

But significant hurdles remain for academic medicine in correcting the problem. Researchers point to several reasons for the low levels of medical school enrollment among Black men, including insufficient pre-college education and economic obstacles rooted in systemic racial divisions, negative stereotypes about Black males, lack of exposure to the profession, and few role models in the field.

“It’s often hard to become what you can’t see, so initiatives like Black Men in White Coats and the film produced under that banner are critically important to change the perception among Black boys and young Black men about who can become a physician,” says Nivet. “Although we have a huge challenge to overcome throughout the continuum of education, UT Southwestern is strongly committed to helping create a pipeline that will lead to more Black male doctors.”

Advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion is a priority in UT Southwestern’s Six-Year Strategic Plan. Among ongoing efforts, the institution recently moved to hire new deans focused on diversifying the student body and faculty in all three of its schools – the UT Southwestern Medical School, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the School of Health Professions.

As this conversation continues, Okorodudu says he wants patients of all races to understand that creating healthy communities will benefit everyone.

“We’re all connected because we live in a global world. If people didn’t believe that prior to 2020 – all they have to do is look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says.

Visit to learn more about the film.