The HBCU is planning its own medical school

A small, historically Black university known for its success in getting Black graduates into medical school announced Thursday that it is now planning its own medical school in New Orleans. The coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of greater medical diversity because representation and trust are elements behind health disparities that affect underrepresented groups, said Reynold Verret, president of the Xavier University of Louisiana.

“Xavier was founded to educate the public and develop a just and humane society through education,” he stated in a statement announcing plans for a medical school and an academic health science graduate program. “The establishment of graduate education programs dedicated to training more black healthcare professionals is a natural progression of our founder’s legacy as we approach our second century of service. It is also where we are called to respond to a pressing national need.”

For decades, St. Rita has educated more African American students and students of color who go on to get medical degrees and health doctorates than any other higher education institution in the United States, according to a news release.

The document offered few details about the new medical school, except that it would take years to plan. It also did not say how long planning for a medical school would take or how much it would cost. Xavier’s current enrollment is around 3,600 students, including roughly 2,700 undergraduates.

Over 600 students are enrolled in Xavier’s college of pharmacy, which is the oldest in Louisiana, and over 240 students are enrolled in graduate school. Master’s and doctoral programs are offered in public health, speech pathology, pharmaceutical studies, and health analytics.

The announcement noted that only one recently established medical school is located at a historically Black institution in the United States. “The Xavier University of Louisiana is considering changing that narrative,” the school’s statement added.

The medical school would be the third in New Orleans and fifth statewide. In addition, Louisiana State University has a medical school in New Orleans and one in Shreveport. Ochsner Health partners with an Australian institution in the University of Queensland School of Medicine, Ochsner Clinical School, just outside New Orleans. A private osteopathic school has a campus at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

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