Diversity, Not Test Scores, Equals Quality in Medicine

Quinn Capers IV, MD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and vice dean for faculty affairs at The Ohio State University has long advocated for increased diversity in medicine and for physicians to be activists.

As protests broke out across the globe in response to the killing of George Floyd, Capers sent out a tweet to inspire Black boys who want to be doctors, but may lack visible role models.

Medscape caught up with the interventional cardiologist. Our original interview was conducted before the recent controversy over a paper in the Journal of the American Heart Association that argued against affirmative action and was eventually retracted. Capers has submitted a rebuttal to that paper, and addresses the issue below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Let’s start with the epic tweet — your message to Black boys who want to become physicians. Why did you send out that tweet that day?

Quinn Capers IV, MD: With everything that’s going on in the country over the last two months, my mind went to the fact that our physician workforce does not come close to reflecting the diversity in this nation.

Some of that is because of racism and social determinants of success, things that keep people back and make them feel discouraged. Seeing the unrest coming out of the acts of police brutality, and racism, and also the disproportionate burden on communities of color of COVID-19 in terms of hospitalizations and deaths, I wanted to send a hopeful message.

Because it’s been a tough time to be Black in America. I used my story to send a message of hope and encouragement for others.

When you were growing up, were there mentors who helped you believe that it was possible to become a doctor?

I got tremendous support from my loved ones, from my mother and my sister. I also had a cousin who wanted to go into healthcare and every time we met, she and I would encourage each other.

A few school teachers were very proud of me and I really basked in the glow of their pride. But in terms of a physician, or even a medical student or resident, somebody that I could look to, I did not have that.

But I was always an avid reader and I loved history, particularly black history. So I guess you would say that I had many virtual mentors, people I was reading about who were inspiring me.

But there was not a human physician to encourage me. That’s one reason why I try to do a lot of mentoring. I try to be for people what I never had because I know how important that is.

In one of your TedX Talks at Ohio State , you spoke of the importance of being an activist and a physician. Why do you think that’s important?

I think it’s part and parcel of the spirit of wanting to be a…

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