Howard University students should not have to fight for a seat at the table.
However, the East End Health Equity Act, a new proposal set to be voted on Tuesday by the City Council of the District of Columbia, could prove that they might have to do just that. The proposal has called for the development of a new hospital in the Southeast Washington, D.C., run by nearby George Washington University Hospital. Although a new hospital would enable the local community to thrive, the proposal also happens to exclude Howard University Hospital — and consequently the students of Howard University College of Medicine — from its plans.
The addition of a new hospital could lead to a decline in the number of patients that visit Howard University Hospital, which, in turn, would impact the level of educational access health professional students enrolled at HU College of Medicine could obtain. Throughout the institution's 150-year history, HU College of Medicine students have utilized Howard University Hospital as their training ground. Ultimately, the hospital has supported the education of more than 10,000 African American physicians, while also providing a safety net for thousands of patients in the D.C. neighborhoods of Ward 7 and Ward 8. According to a recent letter by Howard President Wayne Frederick, there are 1,700 Howard College of Medicine physicians who currently practice in the D.C. area, and "many of these physicians provide services in the city’s most impoverished areas."
Dr. Frederick's letter also provides more clear insight into the possible repercussions of failing to include the medical school into the proposal, such as a significant drop in funding and — worst of all — accreditation loss. Additionally, he states that though the new hospital's proposed opening is scheduled for 2023, now is the time to fight for Howard's inclusion in the proposal, voicing concerns to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser as well as to City Council.
So while it's unclear why the city would consider plans to enact an "equity" proposal that simultaneously excludes the district's only HBCU, what is clear is that the university's officials and the 740 students who are currently enrolled must act in order to save their beloved community. Howard students have spent the past few days rallying together via social media under the hashtag #HowardMedicineMatters, spreading the word to their peers about how this proposal will directly impact their futures.
"I'm here today — in the middle of taking four exams — to tell you how important it is that we cannot afford for the African American community to be excluded from the East End Hospital Deal," said Miranda Barnes, who is a first-year medical student at Howard."Without the Howard University Hospital, where would that leave us?"
Others, including Mr. and Ms. Howard University Brandon Allen and Kayla Waysome, tweeted about a town hall for students to attend in order to speak out, which was held on December 3.
Mister and Miss Howard University are urging you to come out to the town hall meeting tonight at 5:30.
Protect the legacy of Howard University Hospital, #HowardMedicineMatters pic.twitter.com/bVmjwb7lca— Howard University (@HowardU) December 3, 2018
"Howard University students deserve access to new resources," Waysome said.
"Howard University students deserve a seat at the table in this new, cutting-edge facility," Allen followed.
Councilman Trayon White intends to propose an amendment that would actually include HU College of Medicine within the East End Health Equity Act. According to an email from Alonda Thomas, director of public relations at Howard, the esteemed learning institution stands behind White's amendment, because it would help "ensure that Howard doctors and residents would be able to practice and train at the new hospital."
"If there are no changes made [to the proposal], it places us at a disadvantage. It doesn't close the door on continuing to pursue what we believe is right, and what we need to do to get an agreement," Dr. Hugh Mighty, dean of HU College of Medicine, told Blavity in regards to the university's plans moving forward, assuming the amendment is rejected and the original proposal goes through. "In order to continue to teach our residents, we have to have access to the [new] hospital."
Howard's community is banding together, refusing to let up on ensuring that the futures of its students are not at risk, as a result of being left out of the East End Health Equity Act.
"The first action plan is to continue to pursue an engagement with the city that gets us to a point where we are satisfied that Howard will have a seat at table, in order to continue our training," Dean Mighty said. "We're not moving on to plan B, C or D until we have exhaust all options as they stand in front of us."
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