Medical Diversity in Medical Schools is Slowly Improving

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According to an NPR article, there has been an increase in diversity in medical school classes since 2009. That is the year that the Liaison Committee on Medical Education announced a new requirement that all medical schools need to execute policies that help them attract and maintain a more diverse student body. Any medical schools failing to do so are liable to receive citations from this body, which can affect their accreditation status.

The new requirement seems to be working. According to JAMA, researchers studied the shifting demographics of med students during the period 2002-2017, finding an increase in diversity among enrolled students, especially since 2012. They believe that this is the first year that the new criteria could come into effect.

However, change is slow. In 2017, 58.9% of entering med school students were white, down less than 10% from 2002.

From 2002-2012, the percentage of female and black students decreased every year while the percentage of Latino and Asian students increased. However, since 2012, the percentage of female and black students beginning med school started a slow but steady growth.

Student Sex, Race & Ethnicity in 2002 and in 2017:

Asian-American: In 2002 20.8%; in 2017 24.6%
White: In 2002 67.9%; in 2017 58.9%
African-American: In 2002 6.8%; in 2017 7.3%
Hispanic: In 2002 5.4%; in 2017 8.9%
Female: In 2002 49.0%; in 2017 50.4%​

According to Dr. Dowin Boatright, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Yale University and coauthor of the study, the improvements are seen thanks to the new requirement. “Programs are actually being held responsible,” says Boatright. Associate dean for diversity and inclusion at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Dr. John Paul Sanchez, agrees: “It makes people think differently when you say you must do something…People have more concrete direction.”

The most recent enrollment data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges show that the trends are continuing in 2018.

  • 8.6% of first-year med students are African-American.
  • 51.7% of first-year med students are female.
  • Black male enrollees have always been underrepresented in comparison to the general population. This year they make up approximately 3.4% of first-year med students.
Sanchez believes that the accreditation standards are imperative and schools must spend time and money to support minority students. However, he says, meeting standards is not the same thing as making minority students feel welcome. This is a long-term project.

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Related Resources:

Medical School Selectivity Index, discover the medical schools where you are competitive
Medical Minority Applicant Registry (Med-MAR): Who, How, & Why?
4 Tips for Applying as an Underrepresented Applicant in Medicine

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