CU Anschutz School of Medicine creates new scholarship for Black students

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AURORA | The University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine has established an endowment fund for Black students and other underrepresented students in honor of Dr. Charles Blackwood, the school’s first Black graduate.

The Charles J. Blackwood, MD, Endowed Memorial Scholarship will provide funding for at least four full scholarships for students, according to a university release. School officials said they hope to grow the endowment so that it can provide more scholarships in perpetuity.

The endowment is one of the School of Medicine’s largest, the release said. Private donors provided $1 million, the School of Medicine is providing $1 million in matching funds and CU system president Mark Kennedy has authorized $1 million for the fund. Major donors include Colorado Permanente Medical Group and Centura Health.

Charles Blackwood, who was born in Trinidad, Colorado in 1921, graduated from the School of Medicine in 1947. He was the first Black student to do so. He went on to work as a physician in Denver, serve in the Air Force and eventually teach at the School of Medicine.

The creation of the fund was organized by the Mile High Medical Society, a Denver-based group of Black healthcare professionals.

“We need more diversity among health care providers to improve the quality of care for everyone in our community,” said Terri Richardson, MD, member of the Mile High Medical Society and an internist at Kaiser Permanente, in the release. “This scholarship fund will make it possible for more students to achieve their dreams and our medical system will be improved by their contributions.”

The School of Medicine has increased the number of Black students it has, but they still remain a small minority. In 2015, fewer than 2% of incoming students were Black or African American. In 2020, that rose to 6%, the release said. Of the school’s total 788 students, just 52 are Black.

Following protests for racial justice in Aurora and across the country last year, Anschutz students formed the Black Student Collective, which is advocating for CU Anschutz to make changes to become more equitable for students of color. School leadership is in the process of implementing some of their changes.

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