Federal Funding for Program to Boost Number of Black Medical Students Is About to Run Out

The Center of Excellence program was established by Congress in 1987 to help medical schools recruit and retain students from underrepresented minority groups. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that tens of thousands of black and other minority students have participated in the program over the past two decades. Yet blacks are still only 3 percent of all physicians in this country.

In 2004 the U.S. Congress appropriated $33.3 million in grants to 34 medical schools under the Center of Excellence program. Last year the program’s budget was slashed to $11.8 billion. In the current fiscal year, there are no funds whatsoever for the program.

Some medical schools are seeking other funding sources to keep alive their Center of Excellence programs. Also, it is hoped that the new Congress, under Democratic leadership, will restore funding.