Albany Tech panel looks to boost profiles of men in health care

Feb. 18—ALBANY — The four black men sitting at the table are in the minority in their chosen profession, but it's not due to their race, or at least not solely due to the color of their skin.

As health care workers, they are in a field where women are a majority in many positions.

In 2019 76% of health care workers were women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of 2.4 million registered nurses and 1.2 million employed in other nursing positions, psychiatric and home health aides, the overwhelming majority were women at 85%.

Albany Technical College asked the question Thursday "Are you man enough to be in health care?" with a panel of four Albany area health care providers in an effort to dispel some of the stereotypes of men in health care professions.

While careers in the field can be high-paying and competitive with male-dominated professions like truck-driving and construction, the panelists — Dr. Lorenzo Carson, Clifton Bush, Gregory Ewing and Montavius Marcus — said that was not their main consideration in their chosen work.

"I always like to help people and to help people do better in our community," Bush, chief operation officer at Albany Area Primary Health Care, said.

Bush said he initially envisioned working as a physical therapist when he went to Albany State University, but he eventually decided to instead pursue health care administration. Having grandparents in Baker and Miller counties made him realize the need for health care in rural communities, and he said he likes that AAPHC not only offers basic services but also things like optometry to that population at low cost, as well as being able to provide lower-priced medications.

"We also take care of individuals of low-income," he said. "I like being able to get them care here."

Among the benefits of having men in the profession, panelists said, is that male patients are sometimes more comfortable talking to another male about some medical conditions.

"I think for us, to have someone in the hospital caring for us, (someone who) understands something about your culture, is helpful," said Carson, who was the first black radiologist in the city and who later furthered his education to receive a medical degree.

For members of the community, seeing men in health care can set an example that it's acceptable for others to enter the profession. They also can encourage men, who have a tendency to put off doctor's visits and ignore health issues, to seek care.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the shortage of health care providers, "opened their eyes that they really work hard," said Ewing, a certified pharmacy technician with Phoebe Putney Health System. "Now it seems the public has a greater appreciation for nurses and health care in general.

"I want to let (men) know it's OK to get your annual physical," Ewing said. "That doesn't make you any less of a man. It just shows you care about your health and your family. I like to encourage men, black men in particular, to go to the doctor and get regular checkups."

Medical professions can be rewarding in terms of job satisfaction and salary, but money shouldn't be the sole reason, said Marcus, practice manager of oncology with Phoebe Putney Health System.

"A lot of people have the perception that everybody who goes into health care makes a lot of money," he said.

"You have to go into it for the right reason."