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Fundraiser set for Britt fund

Minorities are expected to make up more than half the U.S. population by 2050, but a lack of minority physicians creates major health-care obstacles for underrepresented racial ethnic groups.

The L. D. Britt, MD Scholarship Fund is working to solve that problem.

Studies show that increased diversity in the physician work force makes health care more accessible to underrepresented minority patients, and they feel better about the care they receive. However, minority students account for fewer than 10 percent of medical school graduates.

The cost of medical school stands as one of the largest hurdles for minorities aspiring to become doctors. A survey of U.S. medical students conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges showed an average student-loan burden of more than $150,000, with some topping $200,000.

That stark reality eliminates medicine as a career option for many promising minority students, but the Britt Scholarship helps to reignite that hope.

“It is crucial that we keep the door open for students most capable and willing to follow Dr. Britt’s path of dedication and community service,” said Dr. William E. Russell, chair and founder of the L.D. Britt Scholarship Committee.

He started the program in 1995 to honor Dr. Britt for performing life-saving surgery after Dr. Russell was diagnosed with colon cancer.

The scholarship’s largest fundraiser, the L. D. Britt, MD, Scholarship Fund Dinner, will be held Oct. 13, 2011 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Carlos A. Pellegrini. Dr. Pellegrini is the chair of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons, president of World Organization for Specialized Studies on Diseases of the Esophagus and a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In addition to relieving some of the debt load medical students face, the Britt Scholarship encourages more minorities to enter medical practice, increasing access to quality health care.

“We must take steps to remove this disincentive of debts if we are to widen access to quality health care for our society’s underrepresented minorities and prevent a critical shortage of physicians,” Dr. Britt said.

Britt, a Suffolk resident, is chair and Brickhouse Professor of Surgery at EVMS, president of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, and president of the American College of Surgeons, the world’s largest organization of surgeons.

“This scholarship makes medicine a viable opportunity for the up-and-coming generation’s brightest minds,” he added.

The Scholarship Fund also has announced its 2011 Community Service Award honorees. They include: Bettie Minette Cooper, a national altruist for cultural and educational organizations; Dr. William R. Harvey, president of Hampton University and a well-known innovator and philanthropist; and Dr. Lucy R. Wilson, an international scholar and trailblazer.