UNM faculty and students will come together on Friday to discuss the role of Black women in the field of medicine, and brainstorm solutions to the lack of participation from the underprivileged community in the field.

The event titled “Face of Medicine: Black Women in Medicine” will be held at the Domenici Center.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Black women comprise just over one percent of faculty in academic medicine. Friday’s event is an attempt to raise awareness about the lack of representation of Black women in academic medicine and to inspire attendees to take a stance on the subject, event organizers said.

Karissa Culbreath , assistant professor at the Department of Pathology, said the event will include a book signing for “Against All Odds: Celebrating Black Women in Medicine," by Crystal Emery and a speech by Joycelyn Elders, the first African American Surgeon General in the U.S.

The event will also include a film screening of “Changing the Face of Medicine: Black Women in Medicine," produced by Emery, a reception, workshops and a Q & A session. The event is free for anyone who wants to attend.

Culbreath, one of the event’s organizers, said she identifies as a Black female involved with the medical field. She said she held a few Black physicians in high regard while growing up in Albuquerque.

“Even now, Black women are still underrepresented in academic medicine,” she said. “This event creates a space where the efforts, accomplishments and success of Black women in medicine are celebrated. We will have 20 to 25 middle and school students [attending], who may for the first time be in a room with several Black physicians. They will realize that their dreams can be achieved, because those who have gone before them have paved the way.”

Martha McGrew, executive vice dean at the School of Medicine, identifies as a White female physician raised in the south during desegregation.

She said she was brought up by a single, high school-educated mother and three Black women, who make values such as equity and social justice important to her.

“(They) loved me like I was theirs,” McGrew said. “Being involved in this event is one way of paying respect to the women who helped raise me and to pay forward to their granddaughters and great granddaughters the opportunities they offered me. It is an honor to be able to be involved.”

Culbreath feels less and less Black women get involved in medicine due to a lack of access to programs and institutional support. McGrew sees the problem deriving from the lack of Black female role models involved in the medical field, caused by a lack of sponsorship and mentoring opportunities others had.

Brian Gibbs, associate professor at the Department of Family and Community Medicine, said he believes there’s a lack of this demographic in the field due to a variety of factors, including limited guidance and understanding prior to college, limited resources – whether it be educational, financial or social – and women feeling discouraged or unsupported in pursuing math and science.

Gibbs said if more Black women were involved in medicine, there would be improved access to high quality health care for Black female patients.

As a result, poor health outcomes and health disparities among Black people could be reduced.

Culbreath said that she hopes attendees see that the face of medicine is changing; a career involving medicine is attainable.

She said that the UNM School of Medicine is committed to supporting diversity.

Elizabeth Sanchez is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Beth_A_Sanchez.