Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 16, 2021
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KAINE. Mr. President, communities of color and those living in rural and underserved areas face significant barriers to healthcare, including physician shortages that have only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, in many communities of color and rural areas, there are few pathways to enter the medical profession. While medical school enrollment is up by 30 percent, the number of students from rural areas entering medical school declined by 28 percent between 2002 and 2017, with only 4.3 percent of all incoming medical students coming from rural areas in 2017. Similarly, Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American students face several barriers to matriculate and graduate from medical school, and there is significant underrepresentation of these students at all U.S. medical schools with the exception of historically Black medical schools. These medical schools represent 2.6 percent of all medical schools but 15 percent of Black medical students, indicating the important role that these institutions play in increasing the diversity of the physician workforce. Health outcomes for patients of color improve when they receive care from doctors of their own racial or ethnic background, and the shortage of providers of color exacerbates the barriers to care that these communities experience. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened long standing health inequities, and it is critical that we expand the diversity of our physician workforce to tackle these rampant disparities and the systemic biases within our health care system.

This is why I am introducing the Expanding Medical Education Act, which aims to tackle the lack of representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in the physician pipeline by encouraging the recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The bill would provide grants through the Health Resources and Services Administration, HRSA, to colleges and universities to establish or expand allopathic or osteopathic medical schools in underserved areas or at minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities, HBCUs. These grants can be used for planning and construction of a medical school in an areas in which no other school is based; hiring diverse faculty and staff; recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students; and other purposes to ensure increased representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in our physician workforce.

Our rural communities and communities of color face significant challenges accessing healthcare. It is time our physician workforce reflected these communities. We need to diversify our physician pipeline and change the disparity in representation, and this bill will help get us there. I am proud to reintroduce this important legislation to help us get one step closer to ensuring communities across Virginia and the Nation have access to the medical professionals they need. I hope the Senate passes this legislation quickly. ______

By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Mr. Lujan):

S. 3427. A bill to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a Neuroscience Center of Excellence; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.