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Kaine Introduces Bill To Support Medical Schools In Underserved Areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a bill to tackle the lack of representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in the physician pipeline. The Expanding Medical Education Act would provide grants through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to colleges and universities to establish or expand allopathic (M.D. granting) or osteopathic (D.O. granting) medical schools in underserved areas or at minority-serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The legislation would encourage the recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Communities of color and those living in rural and underserved areas face significant barriers to health care,” said Kaine. “Medical students of color and those from rural areas are more likely to practice in the communities they’re from, but in many of these places, there are limited pathways to enter the medical profession. We need to diversify our physician pipeline and change the disparity in representation. This bill will help get us there.”

“We are grateful that Senator Kaine is proactive in his dedication to addressing the tremendous need for physicians in underserved communities. This grant will provide a pipeline for reducing health disparities. It will further promote the HBCU agenda of providing transformative educational opportunities to our unique population of competitive, motivated and talented students,” said Virginia State University President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah.

“Norfolk State University’s Nursing and Allied Health and DNIMAS programs have a rich history of contributing to the advancement of healthcare in Hampton Roads and across Virginia. COVID-19 has shined a bright light on the health disparities that continue to persist in America’s communities of color. The Expanding Medical Education Act will help to address these disparities and diversify the physician pipeline by providing the financial resources to increase the number of medical schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and institutions of higher education in underserved and rural areas. Norfolk State University supports this legislation and thanks Senator Kaine for his ongoing commitment to equity in education and healthcare,” said Norfolk State University President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston.

“Virginia Union University fully supports this innovative approach to addressing health disparities in the medical profession and in our underserved communities.  As the first HBCU to partner with a community health clinic, VUU is committed to ensuring greater access to healthcare in communities that have scarce resources. The Expanding Medical Education Act will also give us the opportunity to train future physicians and health professionals who identify with the ailments that affect communities of color. This legislation is of significant importance and we applaud Senator Tim Kaine for his leadership and support,” said Hakim J. Lucas, Ph.D., President and CEO of Virginia Union University.

Recent data shows that while medical school enrollment is up by 30 percent, the number of students from rural areas entering medicine declined by 28 percent between 2002 and 2017, with only 4.3 percent of all incoming medical students coming from rural areas in 2017. Similarly, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American students face several barriers to matriculate and graduate from medical school. In 2017, non-Hispanic Black Americans constituted less than 6 percent of physicians despite making up almost 12 percent of the U.S. population, and Hispanics only made up around 6 percent of physicians despite making up 17 percent of the U.S. population.

Specifically the Expanding Medical Education Act would:

  • Prioritize grants to institutions of higher education that:
    • Propose to use the funds to establish a medical school or branch campus in an area in which no other such school is based and is a medically underserved community or health professional shortage area.
    • Are minority-serving institutions (MSIs), including HBCUs.
    • Allow grant funds to be used for:
      • Planning and construction of a new medical school in an area where no other school is based or a branch campus.
      • Activities to meet the accreditation criteria for a medical school.
      • Hiring diverse faculty and other staff.
      • Recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, students from rural and underserved areas, low-income students, and first generation college students.
      • Supporting educational programs.
      • Modernizing and expanding infrastructure.
      • Other activities determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
      • Require reporting to Congress on the activities conducted under the grants and associated outcomes.
      • Authorize funding of $1 billion to be available until expended.

You can view the full text of the bill here.