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Tallahassee

Rep. Antone files bill to create med school scholarship program for minorities

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By
Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Friday, November 24, 2023

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Florida is estimated to have a shortfall of 18,000 physicians in the next 10 years. Rep. Bruce Antone's medical school scholarship program for Black and Hispanic students could help close the gap.

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Democratic state Rep. Bruce Antone is creating a path for minority students to attend medical school while finding a solution to Florida’s physician shortage.


Pre-covid, the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association estimated that Florida, which had about 55,000 physicians in 2019, would need 75,000 physicians by 2035 to manage the state’s growing and aging population. Their research projected a shortfall of about 18,000 physicians.


On Monday, Antone, who represents Ocoee and Orlando, filed House Bill 571, which would establish the Florida Medical School Scholarship and Grant Program specifically to send Black and Hispanic students to medical school.


Training more physicians may help close the state’s physician deficit. Training physicians of color provides additional benefits. Research shows that patients are more likely to get routine health screenings, raise specific health concerns and follow physician instructions when treated by a doctor of the same race. But according to a 2022 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, just 5.7 percent of physicians are Black and 7 percent are Hispanic while 64 percent of are white and nearly 21 percent are Asian.


“If you're the first person in your family, your mom and dad have never been a doctor, you're not wealthy. When you see how much it costs to go to [medical] school, you're like, Well, can't do that. That's too much debt to even think about taking on,” Antone told VoxPopuli in an October interview.


If passed, the scholarship program would be administered by the Florida Education Fund and would award scholarships to Black and Hispanic students enrolled in either medical school or a physician assistant program. It would also provide mentoring services. Florida Education Fund would determine the award amounts, and priority will be given to medical school students who graduated from a Florida college or university within the last five years or a Florida high school within the last 10.


The legislation calls for $750,000 to be earmarked annually from the General Fund to implement the new program.

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