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'We can make a difference,' Black nurse, doctor breaking barriers in medical field

'We can make a difference,' Black nurse, doctor breaking barriers in medical field
'We can make a difference,' Black nurse, doctor breaking barriers in medical field 02:06

BOSTON — Two local Black medical professionals are working to break barriers in their communities and in their field. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 5% of physicians are Black, despite the fact that the census says there are more than 41 million Black people in the U.S.

"There is actual research out there that shows that when you are cared for by people that look like you, your outcome is better," Tiffany Vassell, a perinatal nurse with Cambridge Health Alliance, told WBZ-TV. 

Black people statistically have higher rates of maternal death, heart disease and diabetes. Much of the disparity stems from generations of socioeconomic inequities and racial biases in the medical field.

"As a Black woman, my own personal experience just when I had my daughter, at that time I was not a nurse, and I felt like I wasn't heard," Vassell explained. 

After that, she made it her mission to make sure others didn't have the same experience. 

"I felt like I needed to be in that space to make a difference," she said.

Tiffany is on the board of the Baystate Birth Coalition and founded Nurses For Black Maternal Health and Equity in an effort to recruit more Black women into the perinatal field. 

"I was loud for myself and I want to be loud for other people who don't necessarily feel that power for themselves," she said. 

Over in Roxbury, Dr. Charles Anderson leads Dimock Community Health Center which serves a large community of color.

"It's one thing to talk to your doctor about hypertension, it's a very different thing to talk to your doctor about your experience growing up as a Black or Brown individual in the neighborhood and the things you face every day and expect they're going to be able to understand in a way that's going to provide you real value," Dr Anderson told WBZ. 

Dr. Anderson, whose father also worked in the medical field, says his parents instilled his love for community. 

"They raised me to care," he said. "That's at the end of the day they raised me to care deeply about our community, care deeply about the people that we live right next door to, care deeply about our neighbors and to know that we can do something, to know that we can make a difference."

A difference that's impacting hundreds of lives. 

Research from the Journal of the National Medical Association found that exposure at a young age to role models of color in the medical field may increase the number of Black physicians. We hope highlighting these two physicians can add to that.

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