Baylor College of Medicine sees rise in minority medical students

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Ayleen Hernandez' family can't stop smiling knowing their daughter will be a doctor in four years.

"They have been shouting it from the top of their lungs, calling family in Mexico, telling our neighbors, they couldn't be prouder," Hernandez said.

The first generation college student from the East End is a part of the 186 minority medical students at Baylor College of Medicine.

The school said this year's incoming class has the most underrepresented minority students in the school's history, which is an 80% increase from the previous year.

"I was just super happy, super thrilled. It was something I was not even expecting,"Hernandez said.

By now, we know that Hispanic and Black communities have been affected the most by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the communities are underserved medically, and the need for doctors in the area is huge.

"A place like Baylor College of Medicine and Houston, one of the most diverse in the states, has to reflect a diverse community, so it becomes an important priority," said Dr. Joseph Kass, the associate dean of student affairs at Baylor.

He also added that the record number of minority students this year is no COVID-19 coincidence.

Kass said it's years of hard work within the Black and Hispanic communities, and showing young students that becoming a doctor is not just a dream, but a reality that is truly attainable.

"There is more scholarship money available because there is a recognition of having a diverse workforce in medicine," Kass said.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought to light what doctors already knew.

"Health disparities do exist," said Hernandez. "Seeing that first hand growing up and throughout college, and now it planted the seed for me in medicine."

The hope is that students like Hernandez will go back to their community to practice medicine and provide what has been lacking for many years.

"I want people to take some lessons from this and really see that we can't help to sacrifice any lives by ignoring these health disparities any longer," Hernandez said.

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