In honor of Black History Month, PAGNY is excited to feature Dr. Maurice Wright, Chief Medical Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem. Dr. Wright holds an MD and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He also inspires future generations of medical providers as the Senior Associate Dean for the Columbia University Medical Center affiliation at Harlem Hospital Center.
We sat down with Dr. Wright to learn more about his perspective as a Black medical provider. Here’s what he had to say:
PAGNY: Why is Black representation in medical professionals important?
Dr. Wright: Our Black communities have the highest prevalence of many chronic diseases, especially diabetes, hypertension, and various cancers such as prostate and colon, amongst others. Excellent health and wellness in our population [requires] health care providers who are trusted by their community. Our communities knowing there is strong Black representation in health care systems like ours, trust the medical care we deliver and accept health advice much easier with less inhibition in the process. As a Black medical provider, my experience is similar after three plus decades. Preventative screening exams, treatment, procedures, and research acceptance improve when the providers are of the same ethnicity. This is very important in reducing health disparities in our communities and allowing our people to live their healthiest lives.
PAGNY: Which Black historical figures inspire you and your work the most?
Dr. Wright: Dr. [Martin Luther] King raised the nation's conscience by pointing to the inferior medical care received by African Americans in his time. As a youngster, I experienced many in my surroundings as having no medical care. I was surprised when I arrived in the US that the inequality in healthcare was as stark as it was back home; this inspired me to become the best physician I could be and to use my knowledge to help change this injustice in health.
PAGNY: What advice would you give to the next generation of Black medical providers?
Dr. Wright: There is no better time than now to study hard and pursue a career in medicine. A significant number in my generation of Black physicians have paved the way for the next generation. We did so by delivering excellent clinical care and becoming leaders in the profession. Educational and societal participation also enhance the importance of African Americans in this profession. It must be noted that impediments such as financing a medical education are much easier to handle today with the multiple programs to help students and young medical professionals. There are loan forgiveness programs, financial assistance programs, and other sources which lessen this burden. Lastly, with the ACA, there are more patients who are insured and seeking care early making ones practice a more positive experience. The provider can establish relationships while preventing more serious end-stage chronic diseases due to our patients having medical insurance.
Dr. Wright’s commitment to fostering the health and well-being of Black communities in New York City exemplifies PAGNY’s mission to provide compassionate care to the historically underserved. We are thankful for his stewardship of H+H/Harlem and acknowledge and honor the path he has paved for future generations of Black providers.