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The panel will feature three Black male physicians who will speak to the lack of Black males in medicine, how that impacts health outcomes from Black men and how to inspire more Black students to pursue careers in medicine.

SEATTLE – Feb. 18, 2021 Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is hosting a virtual screening of the documentary Black Men in White Coats and a subsequent panel to discuss the film. The health system will also sponsor access to the film for up to 100 students from Washington charter public schools Rainier Valley Leadership Academy and Summit Sierra High School. Students are also invited to participate in the panel to inspire them to pursue careers in medicine and hear first-hand from Black physicians about their journeys.

Part of the health system’s commitment to community and diversity, equity and inclusion, the virtual panel and screening will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 23, during Black History Month. Gary S. Kaplan, MD, CEO, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health will open the event and introduce panel participants. The panel will be hosted by Ryan Pong, MD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, and will feature three Black male physicians from Virginia Mason Medical Center as panelists – Drs. Donel Sequea, Nigel Sparks and Hailu Tilahun.

“The lack of Black males in the medical field has an impact on health outcomes for the Black community,” said Tilahun. “To even begin to address health disparities, the medical field needs to better reflect the patient populations it treats. To do that we have to break down the barriers to people of color entering the field.”  

Fewer Black men applied to medical school in 2014 than in 1978 and Black men have the lowest life expectancy in the United States. The documentary explores why only 2% of American doctors are Black men and what impact that has on health outcomes for the Black community and society. 

“It is critical scholars see people who look like them in fields where they are traditionally underrepresented – so they know they belong in these spaces,” said Baionne Coleman, CEO and principal of Rainier Valley Leadership Academy. “Black Men in White Coats presents a powerful opportunity to do that while also discussing the barriers Black and Global Majority male scholars might be faced with in pursuing that path.”

For more information about Black Men in White Coats, including setting up a screening of the film, please visit

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About Virginia Mason Franciscan Health

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health brings together two leading health systems in Washington state – CHI Franciscan and Virginia Mason – into one integrated health system with the most patient access points in western Washington. With a team of 18,000 team members and staff, and nearly 5,000 employed physicians and affiliated providers, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health provides expert, compassionate medical care at 11 hospitals and nearly 300 sites of care throughout the Puget Sound region. The integrated health system has nearly 1,500 hospital beds and also includes Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the United States designed specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS; Benaroya Research Institute, which is internationally recognized for autoimmune disease research; and Virginia Mason Institute, which trains health care professionals and others around the world in the Virginia Mason Production System, an innovative management method for improving quality and safety. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health includes hospitals throughout Washington, including Virginia Mason Hospital, Seattle; St. Anthony Hospital, Gig Harbor; St. Clare Hospital, Lakewood; St. Elizabeth Hospital, Enumclaw; St. Francis Hospital, Federal Way; St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma; St. Michael Medical Center, Silverdale and Bremerton; St. Anne Hospital, Burien; Rehabilitation Hospital, Tacoma; and Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital, Tacoma.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our communities, including the poor and underserved, providing nearly $200 million in community benefit — free, subsidized, and reduced cost health care and programs.

About Rainier Valley Leadership Academy

Rainier Valley Leadership Academy is a public, tuition-free, charter school, providing an anti-racist collaborative community and rigorous education, while providing access to civic leadership and college success for all scholars in Seattle.

RVLA is a 6-11 public charter school serving the Seattle Community. We respect and celebrate the wealth and vitality of the ethnic and cultural traditions that thrive in our neighborhood. Our mission is to put every child on the path to success in college and career, leadership, and life.

We integrate college and career-ready and hands-on instruction to expose all scholars to a variety of authentic experiences. Our teachers use data driven collection to meet scholar needs and differentiation. We use common planning time and collaborative team time to analyze data to inform instruction. We provide a teacher mentor for every scholar, and focus on personalized learning.

RVLA boasts a highly-qualified and diverse faculty and staff that not only have excellent educational credentials, but also bring to their classrooms many years of dedication to scholar success and passion for our mission. Our small school community allows adults to know each and every scholar by name, strength and need. We pride ourselves on building and maintaining close relationships with scholars and families.

Our academic model is based around a college going culture with high expectations and high support, including acceleration and intervention. Technology and art electives will also be included for all scholars in grades 9-11.

About Summit Sierra

Summit Sierra is a small, personalized college-prep public high school in the Seattle’s Chinatown International District. We provide a rigorous and supportive learning environment for a diverse group of passionate young people. We are tuition free and open to all students.

After spending time getting to know the fabric of our community, the Summit Sierra team opened our doors in the fall of 2015. Our first class of seniors graduated in 2019 and we are proud to share that 100% were accepted to a four-year college.

In 2020, Summit Sierra continued to thrive and was recognized by the Washington School Recognition Program for growth and excellence in student achievement.

As a public school, enrollment at Summit Sierra is tuition-free and open to all students in grades 9 through 12.


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