According to new data, US medical schools have shown some progress in enrolling students from underrepresented groups, but their efforts to diversify their faculty have largely stalled.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), while first-year enrollment of Hispanic and Black medical students has increased, American Indian enrollment has declined.
Another study published in JAMA reported that the number of underrepresented faculty did not keep pace with the enrollment of underrepresented medical students. Only Black faculty have seen modest increases in the past three decades, and those increases varied by institution. In addition, the study revealed that the number of Hispanic faculty declined relative to a growing population.
Diversity is vital to underrepresented medical students and professors. They strive to decrease healthcare disparities, confront racial prejudices in medicine and offer medical services to communities that often have a shortage of physicians. Nevertheless, a few students may quit, and faculty members may depart from academia due to a lack of support or a hostile workplace.
“Having a diverse workforce in medicine means that patients can choose physicians from similar backgrounds, whether it’s their race, religion, or gender. Research shows that concordance enhances trust and the physician-patient relationship and improves medication adherence,” said Joel Bervell, a 4th-year Ghanaian-American medical student at Washington State University School of Medicine.
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have primarily produced Black physicians and other health professionals. Therefore, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is working with the United Negro College Fund to support more HBCUs that can nurture pathways to medical schools.
In addition, most medical schools have redirected their admission policies from relying solely on MCAT scores and GPA to conducting a “holistic review” of applicants’ profiles. Finally, academic medical centers have hired diversity, equity, and inclusion experts for leadership positions to change institutional culture and climate.
Researchers at Yale University found that over five percent of Hispanic and Black medical students were likely to drop out. In contrast, Native American students were twice as likely to drop out as White medical students.
Students more likely to drop out had to work to support themselves, lacked academic preparation, or had difficulty finding a sense of belonging. Therefore, medical schools must provide better support systems and resources to ensure that students from underrepresented groups thrive and succeed in the medical field.
In conclusion, the lack of diversity in the medical profession is a longstanding issue that requires ongoing efforts to address. While progress has been made in enrolling underrepresented students, there is still a need to focus on diversity efforts for faculty and provide better support for students from underrepresented groups. By creating a more diverse and inclusive medical workforce, we can improve healthcare outcomes for all patients and challenge racial biases in medicine.
“We’re starting to make progress, and people are starting to listen. We still have a lot more work to do, such as increasing the number of Native American students,” he said. “It’s two steps forward and one step backward, but I think we will make huge strides in the next few years.”