Notes on Engineering Health, Special Edition: Notes on the Need for Systemic Change

June 2020

We cannot standby and avert our gaze from what is happening in the United States. The need for change, systemic and immediate, is as clear and inarguable in our health industry as it is in our political arena:

1/ Education
Data from the National Science Foundation show that, from 2008 to 2017, black PhD graduates in science and engineering increased modestly from 5.1% to 5.4%. In 2017, there were more than a dozen fields—largely subfields within science, technology, engineering, and math—in which not a single doctoral degree was awarded to a black person anywhere in the United States. The proportion of medical students who identified as African-American or black rose from 5.6% in 1980 to 6.2% percent in 2018-2019, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). That's a substantial increase but still short of the 13.2 percent in the general population.  

2/ Equity
According to data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one-third of COVID-19 infections nationwide have affected black Americans though they represent only 13% of the US population. The death toll due to the COVID pandemic on the black community has been extraordinary and disproportionate.

3/ Access & Quality of Care
Pregnancy Related Mortality Rate (PRMR) is 3.2 times (that’s 320%) higher in black women than in white women according to data from the CDC. The PRMR for black women with at least a college degree was 5.2 times that of their white counterparts. The CDC notes that reducing these disparities will require the participation of multiple systems, from creating standardized protocols to identifying and addressing biases in healthcare. 

4/ Finance
According to a 2015 report by venture capital research firm CB Insights, black founders received a mere 1% of venture capital (VC) dollars.

Taken together with current events, the notes above are just a glimpse of the pervasiveness of the problem and the scale of the solutions that we need:

An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.
– We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates