Here’s Why Our Medical Schools Need To Push For Diversity In Order To Improve Our Nation’s Health

Improving Diversity In Medical School

According to a May report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools are dedicated to increasing diversity in their student body and increasing student interest in caring for underserved populations.

Of the 137 schools that responded to a recent survey from the AAMC, more than 80 percent said they already had or planned to have specific admission programs or policies for recruiting a diverse student body interested in caring for underserved populations within the next two years, the report states.

About 9 percent of physicians identified as black or African-American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic or Latino, the AAMC stated in a 2014 report.

We need to have health care providers who come from different backgrounds who can relate, effectively, to patients from very different backgrounds,” says Randolph Canterbury, senior associate dean for education at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Various strategies are employed by schools to foster diversity, such as holistically reviewing applications. This entails the close examination of an applicant’s extracurricular activities and leadership experience in addition to test scores and grades – and having student groups in place on campus that focus on the needs of students of color.

At Johns Hopkins, it has been a priority for the medical school to work with the university’s undergraduates to attract students of color, says Daniel Teraguchi, assistant dean for student affairs and director for the office for student diversity at the medical school.

Through JUMP, a program for undergraduates at Johns Hopkins from underrepresented populations who are interested in health professions, medical school students can mentor those who aspire to be like them, says Teraguchi.

They bring in such a large percentage of underrepresented minorities as premeds,” says Daniel Teraguchi.

They also entice underrepresented minority applicants through scholarships and enlist the aid of professors to assist admitted students in making the choice to come to Hopkins.

“I had them call the students and say, ‘We want you to come to Hopkins,'” Teraguchi says. “It just shows that commitment and access to faculty that they may not get at other institutions.”

For Yolanda Haywood, the school’s first associate dean for diversity, inclusion and student affairs at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, teaching students about unconscious bias is an important part of the curriculum. This type of bias is implicit and may stem from someone’s upbringing and values.

“Various trainings related to diversity and inclusion have been introduced by Haywood’s office. GW students learn about cultural competence, unconscious bias and stereotypes during the first and second years of medical school,” added Haywood.

Once students reach the clinical part of their studies, they take a workshop on unconscious biases. Students can take an elective on the subject, as fourth-year students.

“[…] it has had an African-American dean and the current dean is gay.” said Haywood.

While the school has a history of inclusion, the administration believes the school has even more room to grow in terms of diversity of its student and governing bodies. 

Joseph Bryant
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