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Area medical students respond to lack of black men in medical field

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PEORIA (HOI) - Two Peoria physicians collaborated with local libraries to shed light on a documentary titled 'Black Men in White Coats'.

The documentary highlights the systemic barriers preventing black men from becoming doctors and the consequences it could have on society.

Two students from the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria shared their thoughts on the documentary, and what they believe can be done to close the gap.

"This is a movement that can be life changing for the black community," Lukman Faniyi said.

According to the documentary 'Black Men in White Coats', only 2 percent of American doctors are black men, and fewer applied to medical school in 2014 than in 1978.

Medical student Lukman Faniyi says the black community has high rates of chronic diseases, and a movement like this could help increase the number of black doctors and eventually lead to change.

"Like every single department, I don't see people like me, that has to be a problem," Faniyi said.

Faniyi is an immigrant from Nigeria, he says there, he didn't have limitations, because everyone in his country was black, but in his programs now, it's rare to see other black men.

"You hear first black neurosurgeon, first black orthopedic surgeon, first black this first black that, I feel like that should be in the past. I'm surprised that's a thing," Faniyi said.

Faniyi believes we need to start by adjusting education, allowing different avenues for black youth. His colleague Charissa Carroll agrees.

"It's a very narrow narrative of what success can be like, we need to start widening that narrative, making it accessible to venture off into different paths," Carroll said.

Carroll says, we as people like to see someone who is like us, and we're more likely to take their advice when we can relate to them.

"Black men are probably a little more weary taking advice from people who aren't black men because they can't understand that struggle, they can't understand their daily living habits," Carroll said.

Faniyi and Carroll say the documentary was inspiring, and they hope to see a change in the future.

"It was eye opening, disheartening, sometimes a little discouraging, because you think you are moving forward and helping your community move forward, but there is a whole lot more work to do," Carroll said.

Both students say they want black youth to know it's important to have mentors along the way to guide you and push you to keep going.

Gabi Guerrero

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