In December 2018, Mike Bloomberg traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to announce that the city had won Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Public Art Challenge. The winning proposal honored the neighborhood of Greenwood – once known as Black Wall Street, and the site of one of America’s worst tragedies: The 1921 Tulsa Race massacre. While there, he was moved by the story of how a predominantly Black neighborhood had become one of the country’s most prosperous communities – and was appalled and angered to know that its destruction at the hands of a racist mob had been whitewashed from history books.
In the spring of 2020, during his campaign for president of the United States, Mike announced an ambitious plan to accelerate the pace of wealth accumulation for Black individuals and families and address decades of underinvestment in Black communities. In remembrance of the hundreds killed in Greenwood, and in recognition of how racism writ large has prevented Black families from building wealth, he called the plan The Greenwood Initiative and returned to Tulsa to lay out its proposals in a speech.
We have since carried the plan’s objectives over to Bloomberg Philanthropies, where we’re supporting and working with partners and institutions that have a proven track record of increasing economic and social mobility to fulfill its mission of reducing wealth disparities in Black communities.
Reducing the debt burden of Historically Black Medical School students
On September 3, 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the launch of The Greenwood Initiative with a $100 million commitment over the next four years to the four historically Black medical schools, which will begin to increase the number of Black doctors by reducing their debt burden.
This funding will allow the four schools – Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, CA – to provide scholarships of up to $100,000 to students currently enrolled and receiving financial aid. It is the largest-ever individual philanthropic gift received by the four historically Black medical schools.
By helping to train the next generation of Black doctors, this investment will save lives and begin to reduce the inequities in our health system that the current economic and public health crisis has underscored.
On average, Black people are more likely to die at every stage of life than white people – and that troubling trend has continued during this pandemic, with Black people suffering the highest death rates from COVID-19.
Due to a number of factors, Black patients overall have better health outcomes when they are treated by Black doctors. Black doctors are also more likely to treat minority patients and practice in medically underserved communities, which often lack access to quality care in comparison to predominantly white communities. However, while the population of the United States is 13 percent Black – only 7 percent of medical school graduates are Black.
By reducing the debt burden of historically Black medical school students, and creating more Black doctors, this investment will help to save Black lives and reduce health problems that limit economic opportunity in Black communities.