This Black History Month, America’s Essential Hospitals spotlights Black history in the making at association member hospitals as they work to ensure the highest quality care for Black patients and pave the way for Black leaders in health care.

Racial disparities within the medical field have long been a troubling reality in the United States, and just 2 percent of all doctors in the nation are Black men.

To change the narrative, a group of medical students at Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University, affiliated with association member Stony Brook Medicine, in Stony Brook, N.Y., established Long Island’s first chapter of Black Men in White Coats in October 2022. This national program aims to increase the number of Black men in the medical field through exposure, inspiration, mentoring, and serving as prominent role models.

Three med school students in white coats stand by a sign with the Renaissance med school and Black Men in White Coats logos

Chimdindu (Chimdi) Obinero (left), Jermaine Robertson, and Marquise Soto visit Brentwood High School. Credit: Stony Brook Medicine.

The chapter regularly seeks opportunities to inspire the next generation of Black male physicians and change the future of the medical field. On Feb. 25, the chapter visited Brentwood High School, in nearby Brentwood, N.Y., to offer more than 200 students the opportunity to interact with medical students, ask questions, and gain insight into the Black male experience in medicine.

Second-year medical student Chimdindu Obinero, co-founder and vice president of RSOM’s Black Men in White Coats affiliate chapter, shared with America’s Essential Hospitals why he felt it was important to get involved.

Chimdindu (Chimdi) Obinero (center), along with medical students Marquise Soto, cofounder and president of the Black Men in White Coats affiliate chapter at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University; and Jermaine Robertson, cofounder and treasurer of the chapter, speak to students of all ages at Brentwood High School on Feb. 25.

Tell us about yourself and how and why you got involved with Black Men in White Coats.

My name is Chimdindu Obinero. I’m a second-year medical student at the Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University. I grew up in Dix Hills, N.Y., and [am] honored to be working with the youth in the community to inspire them and serve as a member of Long Island’s first chapter of Black Men in White Coats (BMWC).

Several factors compelled me to help establish the chapter and become a member. First, I have experienced the need for more Black men in the field of health care. Secondly, our faculty mentors, being Black men themselves, have been instrumental in my success as a medical student, both as role models and as leaders. I recognize how important it is to have people you can look up to when entering a field as demanding as health care. I want to provide the same kind of guidance to Black boys in the community.

Who paved the way for you in your own life, and what does it mean to you to pave the way for future Black health care leaders?

My father has been the greatest inspiration in my journey. He was not only a physician in Nigeria and a central pillar of our community back home, but he underwent the grueling task of repeating his medical education when he came to the United States. He taught me how to persevere through the toughest of struggles in order to achieve my goals. Most importantly, he always spared some time to help his community. Whenever we travel back to Nigeria, we deliver a few suitcases full of medical supplies and conduct basic health screenings. I know that not everyone grows up with such a role model in the home. That is why I want to use my position to inspire others.

What do you think can be done to further improve equity and diversity within the physician space?

Exposure is a key starting point for correcting the issue of Black representation in health care. I think Black youth need to have role models who exemplify all the paths that are available to them. It is hard to set your sight on something that you don’t know is there or that you don’t think you can ever achieve. But if Black children see people who look like them treating patients, running businesses, or teaching students, they will know the same is possible for them. Seeing representation in any career would make that field of work more inviting to anyone, but especially the youth who tend to have a much stronger sense of in-group and out-group dynamics.

What’s one piece of advice you want to share with future Black male physicians?

I would want to tell them that people are rooting for them. We all want to see them succeed. They just have to take that first step. The faculty at RSOM have been some of the greatest allies in my journey. When we wanted to go to conferences, they helped us get the funds. When we wanted to form this chapter of BMWC, they advocated for us. It is important that, as Black men, we be the change we want to see. Once we make that decision, there is a vast support network out there.

What do kind of impact do you hope the chapter has on the community and any hopes for the future of the campaign?

As an organization, we want to reverse the declining trend of Black men applying to medical school. If we take Stony Brook as an example, that would mean having more Black male students matriculating each year. We hope that by collaborating with schools in the community, we can attract outstanding diverse students to RSOM. In turn, when students from those schools eventually apply to medical school, they will have Stony Brook on their application list. My interest grew after I did a summer research fellowship program at Stony Brook while in high school. The opportunity and experience reinforced my interest in medicine and influenced my decision to apply to RSOM.

To learn more about how essential hospitals are combating structural racism inside and outside hospital walls, visit EssentialCommunities.org.