Equity Through Student Loan Assistance

The current student loan debt crisis is one of the most crippling financial situations in American history. Over forty-five million Americans have fallen victim to the skyrocketing costs of higher education and the scarcity of jobs paying a living wage. In total, these students owe a collective $1.6 trillion dollars . While most people are generally familiar with the student debt crisis, many people are not familiar with the staggering racial disparity comprising this financial burden.

The recent murder of George Floyd has put America’s systemic inequities under a microscope. Recognizing our society's deep need to live up to its ideals of justice and equity, many have rallied behind ongoing, anti-racist efforts. These efforts highlight the intimate link between racial and economic justice. This link is embodied in the story and life experience of Dr. Femi Akinnagbe. 

Having just completed his doctorate in medicine (M.D.) at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Femi is currently a family medicine resident working with underserved communities in Los Angeles, CA.  Born and raised in similarly underserved communities on the east coast, his desire is to offer healing and hope to those same kinds of communities.

Unfortunately, his ability to do so is severely hindered by his mountain of student loan debt.  Dr. Femi currently owes $547,000 in student loans. This is nearly three times the national average of medical student loan debt .  Some are tempted to dismiss this amount of debt given the large income that most doctors eventually make. However, research shows that when black professionals start off their careers with debt, the opportunity gap only continues to widen as the years progress .

As friends and colleagues of Dr. Femi, we feel similarly motivated to be of support in this fight for equity.  As an act of solidarity, we’ve chosen to raise funds to help offset Dr. Femi's staggering student loan debt. Throughout his education, Femi has struggled through 19 years of financial hurdles, personal setbacks, and - to put it bluntly - racism. He needs our help.

In these challenging times of great polarization and little compassion, people often ask “how can I help?”. Here is a tangible, direct way to help create greater justice and equity in our society. Please consider helping this wise healer as he works to support the healing of those communities most in need!  With your generous donation, Dr. Femi will move one step closer to the freedom and autonomy he needs to actualize his vision and to serve in his community. Your contribution not only supports Dr. Femi, but also the anti-racist work that is so desperately needed in our society. 

With grace and gratitude,

Andrew Decker
Dana Amundson
Elizabeth Hoffer

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Femi Akinnagbe, MD, MSc., RYT? 

Femi is currently a resident at UCLA- Harbor Family medicine. He chose this program because they see medicine as a tool of empowerment and constantly seek ways to promote justice and equity in the community. 

He completed his MSc. in Physiology, Biophysics and Complementary and Alternative Medicine from Georgetown University, and his BS in Elementary Education from Messiah College. Femi is also a nationally certified massage therapist, Shaolin Kung Fu black belt, and former Division 1 athlete. He has been practicing yoga and Buddhist meditation since 2004.  An avid practitioner of both traditions, he completed yoga teacher training in 2013 at Your Yoga in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

In Minneapolis, he was also an active member of the Common Ground Meditation Center community. At Common Ground, he helped start the center's men’s circle,  was a member of the Inclusivity Advisory Council and People of Color (POC) sangha steering committee. Of particular interest to him is how an embodied yoga & dharma practice can be utilized to meet the challenging needs and deep wounds of our modern society. 

Student debt sounds difficult, but won’t Femi be making plenty of money as a doctor? Does he really need more money?

Once doctors complete all their training and become attending physicians, they generally do earn higher salaries.  However, Dr. Femi is currently a resident physician, and has several years of residency ahead of him until reaching that stage. Per hour, resident physicians often make less than minimum wage. The magnitude of Dr. Femi’s loans cannot be overstated. 

In addition, Dr. Femi also intends to work in community and family care settings. Working as a primary care provider in underserved communities is rarely as lucrative as many other medical subspecialties working in more affluent communities. To offset those student loans, many doctors wanting to work in communities of greatest need, end up leaving those communities in order to pay down their significant student debt. Moreover, as a black doctor in a disproportionately white profession, the increased debt he faces relative to his white colleagues exacerbates the wounds of racism and resources (time, energy, financial, and otherwise) to invest back into his community.  

How much debt does Dr. Femi really have?

As of right now, Dr. Femi owes $547,000 in both public and private student loans. Unfortunately, the annual interest alone will be more than 80% of his take-home pay as a resident physician.  This is how the opportunity gap keeps widening.

How has Femi made it this far?

It’s taken 19 years of determination in the face of financial hardships, educational barriers, institutional, structural, and individual racism, as well as personal health challenges.  Dr. Femi has been forced to take several leaves of absence during his educational journey due to a lack of funds, which has dramatically extended the length of his educational journey. At each setback, he has persevered and redoubled his efforts, often working multiple jobs while schooling in order to make ends meet.

Why is it so important to have Black doctors?

There are massive disparities in health outcomes for people of color, and Black people in particular.  As a pertinent example, the effects of Covid-19 have disproportionately affected  African-Americans.  Studies have shown that Black patients tend to have better health outcomes when seeing Black doctors .  Trust and communication are two of the most important factors in the patient-provider relationship, and having a more representative and diverse medical staff is key to building this relationship.

Who are you?  Why are you volunteering your time for Femi?

We are long-time friends of Femi who have witnessed his perseverance in the face of persistent adversity.  We believe in his vision, and want to use our resources and positionality to support him.  We hope you will do the same!

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Elizabeth Harris
Torrance, CA

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