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"The Color Line in Medicine"

January 24, 1948

written by Nicole LaFrancesca

African Americans have always been discriminated against in the United States. However, the separation between races in the medical field is finally being narrowed. On Nov. 24, 1947, exactly two months ago, the Southern Medical Association met in Baltimore, where the decision was made to allow African American physicians at its scientific sessions from now on.

Despite this turning point, quota systems, written and unwritten, are keeping many Americans from practicing medicine due to their color. The quotas maintain, "racism at the very moment when Americans of every race, creed and color are fighting together to safeguard our democratic way of life," criticized Alexander Bliven, Ph.D. at this month's Southern Medical Association meeting which he was finally able to attend. He gladly gave his input, speaking out many times at the meeting, concerning the inequality that still strongly exists in the medical field of study.

The quota systems, which Dr. Bliven commented on, desist African Americans, Jewish people, and even Catholics and Italians, (though this discrimination has generally been kept from the public eye) from being admitted into medical schools. Black students are not admitted into any of the 28 southern medical institutions. African Americans protested this issue in the early 1940's, leading to the opening of two black medical schools in 1944. These schools were designed to give African Americans equal opportunities, rather than simply favoring Caucasian races.

By picketing, researching on their own, and protesting peacefully, the African Americans are trying to prove that they belong in medicine. The barrier which must be broken, in order to become prominent contributors to the medical field, is proving to be a very difficult task. However, slowly and steadily they are opening up more chances for themselves with hopes of one day ending the color line in medicine.

The best physician is not the one who is from the best race. "He is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope," proclaimed Samuel Taylor Colebridge, president of the African American Medical Movement Association, at a recent protest to stop the discrimination in the medicine field.

works cited: Victor Bond, "Discrimination in Medical Colleges," American Decades: 1940-1949 (Gale Research Inc, 1995).

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