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Thursday, September 7th 2006

Diversity In Medicine

Oh my lord, I actually opened a medical journal! What a good little medical student. And what did I find but a very interesting study on post bacc programs increasing minority medical students.

The study looked at post baccalaurate programs at University of California schools aimed at applicants who had previously applied to medical school and not gained admissions. Well that’s the word on all post bacc programs. Post bacc programs exist with the stated purpose of aiding minority applicants, but the UC programs aren’t amongst these. Still,

Patricipants [in the UC postbaccalaurate programs] were more likely than controls to have low family socioeconomic status and to be members of underrepresented minorities.

The study finds that these programs

are effective in reaching students from groups traditionally underrepresented in medical school and in enhancing the ability of these students to successfully apply to medical school.

Grumbach and Chen admit the limitations of their study (including the fact they have no data on whether the control group students attended post bacc programs not sponsored by the University of California system…which some no doubt did), but if it does nothing it sheds light on the inability of medicine to effectively recruit new physicians who accurately represent patients. As the study cites,

In 2000 Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans comprised more than 25% of the US population but only 7% of the nation’s physicians.

Smedley BD, Butler AS, bristow LR. In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.

I’m not a fan of affirmative action programs at public schools (even the policies allowed). That said, there must be a way to ease the social and economic issues which hamper minority communities and hinder educational oppurtunities. We probably need to take a look at school funding and teacher recruitment because especially in medicine, where healthcare disparities for differences in culture certainly exist, we need to significantly add to the roll of minority physicians.

I Actually Opened Up One of These?

My school does very well in recruiting “minority” applicants. That is largely based on the fact regionally caucasians don’t make up a majority around here. Direct acceptance programs with traditionally “minority” undergraduate univerisities in the area help this as well (although the numbers are small from this program).

Over at JAMA you can read (with a subscription of course) the joining op/ed on the post bacc study, which basically I’ve reaffirmed in this post.