The dearth of black men in medicine is worrisome. Here’s why.

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Calvin Lambert recalls entering an empty lecture hall as a first-year medical student, feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the rigors of medical school and assimilation to a new environment.

Lambert, 31, who grew up in Roosevelt, New York, an ethnically and racially diverse community, wondered if he would ever fit in.

From left, Dr. Calvin Lambert Jr., Dr. Shakir McLean, Dr. Jerry Nnanabu and Dr. Gregory Barnett — four of the eight black men in Brown University medical school’s 2015 graduating class. The class numbered 120.Courtesy of Dr. Calvin Lambert Jr.

“I was concerned about how people would accept me; how much of my ‘blackness’ or ‘black experience’ did I need to suppress in order to build a social network,” Lambert wrote in an email to NBC News. “Would I ever feel like myself in this environment?”

He waited anxiously to see if he would be the only black student in the class — an all-too-familiar experience as a pre-med student at New York University — but sighed in relief when he saw four other black men walk into the lecture hall.

“I was unnerved by the idea of ‘forcing’ myself to fit in to a culture that was seemingly the antithesis of who I am,” said Lambert. “So I was relieved to find people whom I could share this experience with … people who looked like me, talked like me, and could understand me.”

“Many black men don’t have examples of black doctors in their lives. You can’t imagine being what you don’t see.”

Lambert was one of eight black men to join the 2015 class at Brown University medical school — the men made up just under 7 percent of the student body that year, slightly above the national average of 6.5 percent, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. He is now a fourth-year obstetrics and gynecology resident at the Howard University College of Medicine.

Even with efforts to increase the number of minority ethnic groups in science and medicine, the proportion of black men pursuing and obtaining degrees in these fields has reached a historic low. In 1986, 57percent of black medical school graduates were men — but by 2015 that number had dropped to just 35 percent, even as the total number of black graduates in all fields had increased. And that downward trend is expected to continue. In fact, fewer black men entered medical school in 2014 than in 1978.

According to a report released earlier this year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the Cobb Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic groups and racism in medicine, more African-American students attend medical schools today compared with 30 years ago, but the increase is due to greater numbers of black women training to be physicians. The proportion of men among African-American medical students decreased by more than 38 percent over the same period.