The Society of Hospital Medicine bestowed its second annual Hospital Medicine Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion scholarship earlier this year to Cedric Mutebi, a fourth-year medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.
Thanks to a fund made possible by Keystone sponsor Vituity, the $25,000 scholarship is for eligible medical students underrepresented in medicine who demonstrated an interest in a career in hospital medicine and a commitment to practicing in an underserved community.
Mr. Mutebi’s list of accomplishments is already impressive. He holds an honors degree (summa cum laude) in public health from Wayne State University (WSU); he co-founded The Brotherhood, a mentoring organization for Black men at WSU; he created the university’s Hands-Only CPR Challenge, an initiative to teach CPR and cardiovascular health to students and community members across Michigan; he worked as a graduate intern for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), where his research and program development aimed at increasing the representation of underrepresented groups across the medical continuum helped shape the AAMC’s strategic planning around diversifying medicine; he completed a post-baccalaureate fellowship in transplantation genomics at the National Institutes of Health, where he now continues his research on outcome disparities and responses to treatment for chronic rejection.
He’s also a proud native of Detroit and a first-generation Ugandan American passionate about promoting health equity and reducing racial inequities in health care locally and abroad.
And that’s not all. He’s the inaugural Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Changemaker Fellow at Henry Ford Health in Detroit, tasked with helping to increase diversity among physicians and scientists and creating pathways for the institution’s medical group to reach potential trainees earlier.
One way he’s achieving that goal is through the Readying Youth Scientists for Excellence in Medicine, Health Equity, and Discovery (RYSE MED) program, which he co-developed and helps lead. It’s a longitudinal pathway program that starts off with an immersive six-week summer experience for high-school students in the metro Detroit area. It introduces students from underrepresented and structurally vulnerable backgrounds to clinical and research health care careers.
“Physicians, researchers, nurses, optometrists, and others at Henry Ford Health dedicate their time in the mornings to pouring into these individuals and teaching them about their fields of practice and health equity topics and how students can get into the field,” Mr. Mutebi said. “Just seeing how the students are receiving all this information and immersing themselves in this pathway makes our job that much easier. We want to increase their opportunities, remove barriers, and give them some of the tools they need to enter and navigate health care careers.”
The summer component concludes with the scholars presenting their research and solutions to health inequities facing their community. The program strives to remain a resource for the students and their parents when they enter college by sharing information on scholarships, mentoring, and shadowing opportunities.
“DEI work is critically important because I think we have an opportunity in this country to transform how health care is delivered and received,” Mr. Mutebi said. “We’ve gone so many years, so many centuries, with poor representation as a result of racism and systemic injustices. Research has shown, that when we increase the number of people from diverse backgrounds in this space, innovation is greater, our ability to care for all populations is greater, and we have more effective teams. If I can do my small step to help one student see this as a possibility for their future, then they can do the same thing for another student and another student, and it will continue to cascade. I think every health care institution needs to have this as an imperative because it’s critical if we’re truly committed to providing equitable health care for everybody.”
Mr. Mutebi says his very reason for entering the field of medicine stems from his desire to “care for our most marginalized communities, especially the Black community as it relates to health care.” As he continues to rotate through specialties, he’s found working in the hospital provided the most opportunities to do just that. “Our communities end up using our hospitals as the safety net,” he said.
The hospitalist specialty also allowed him to have a broad set of knowledge and skills to help patients with whatever they may be going through—not only help them navigate through that care but also make sure they receive the treatment they need. He loves the challenge of internal medicine in treating diverse cases with diverse pathologies, rooted in the inequities that communities face.
Like all medical students, Mr. Mutebi’s clinical training hit pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. “At the end of my first year in medical school (2020 to 2021) a lot of our clinical volunteering was put on hold because of the risk of being out in the community in our early stages of training, we were still able to volunteer in some regards in terms of testing and providing vaccines, but a lot of our clinical sites were shut down.”
This led Mr. Mutebi and some student and resident colleagues to create Healing Between the Lines. The group met with community experts, activists, organizers, and different nonprofit organizations that have been doing a lot of groundwork in their communities as it relates to health and access to discover how they could partner with them. The goal was to educate medical trainees better on the intersection of structural racism and health while collaborating to build upstream policy solutions to address the different ways it manifests.
There’s no doubt about it—Mr. Mutebi has a lot on his plate. This makes time management crucial—how does he do it? He says first it comes down to knowing his mission and knowing there will be sacrifice. The work he does and the programs he creates to build his community are born out of passion, so he doesn’t see what he does as work. While some would see all the things he’s doing toward that passion as 50 tasks, he sees it as one task done from 50 different angles.
Second, he’s a med student so he’s already aware of the sacrifices. Time is a valuable commodity, and he uses it wisely. “Medical school isn’t easy, you have to be fully present to learn what you need to learn to be the best clinician you can be,” he said. “I always want to make sure that when I’m present in the clinical realm, I’m present. I’m with that patient in that moment.”
Third, Mr. Mutebi knows he has to have time and space to decompress. “For me, that’s playing basketball every Friday for three hours with my guys. That’s my recharge—it’s enjoying the thing that brings me joy, which is being in communion through sport.”
Not bad for a guy who thought he’d go to college to play football, huh? Throughout high school, Mr. Mutebi played football at a pretty competitive level. He was going to college to play football, and he figured he’d take that as far as he could and then become a doctor if that didn’t pan out. Then he got the opportunity to attend Wayne State through its BS-MD program. “I spent a lot of time reflecting on the opportunity,” he said. “I ended up coming here and hanging up the cleats.”
His first experience in the health care setting as an undergrad became a pivotal moment in his journey. “I was volunteering in HIV testing at an emergency department,” he said. “There was this young gentleman, pretty much the same age as me, from the same community as me. I performed the rapid HIV test and it was the first time I ever had a test come back positive and I had to go in and tell him. Seeing him, this young Black guy in Detroit, at that moment experiencing a lot of the anger, the fear, the confusion, the sadness—that brought home a lot of what I’d heard about in terms of health care disparities and the increased rates in Black communities. That’s when it became more than just statistics for me. These are people. They are brothers. They are sons. They are mothers. They are friends. They are lovers. These are all people who are in my community and at that moment I knew it was important for me to be here not only to help people to navigate through their illness and care but to help change the narrative of what health is in my community. At that moment it really became tangible.”
As for what’s next for Mr. Mutebi, the possibilities are endless. After med school, he hopes to complete his internal medicine residency, and then potentially pursue a fellowship. He wants to serve the communities that have the most need and are most marginalized—the Black and brown communities—and he’s drawn to health policies and innovative solutions to the upstream barriers that prevent equitable health care for all.
“I’ll be serving the communities I came to serve and helping to hopefully transform the culture of medicine wherever I end up,” Mr. Mutebi said.