Recognizing the benefits of diversity in classrooms and exam rooms | Rare Techy


Research has shown that achieving a physician workforce that is more similar to the population we serve will result in better health outcomes for our nation. This is essential to developing our ability to provide high-quality care to an increasingly diverse patient population.

That’s why it’s disappointing to see the U.S. Supreme Court, for the third time in a decade, hear again today arguments that disrupt more than four decades of precedent allowing comprehensive, race-conscious admissions policies. In the latest challenge, a group known as Students for Fair Admissions is suing Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, arguing that their current selection models unfairly discriminate against white and Asian applicants for a more diverse and inclusive student body.

A decision on the matter, expected next year, will have significant implications for US higher education, including medical school enrollment. Just as centralized recruitment campaigns and other strategies begin to succeed, a ruling banning race as a consideration in admissions would reduce diversity.

For example, the number of black first-year medical students in the US increased by 21% between 2020 and 2021, while Hispanic or Latinx students increased by more than 7%. For the first time since the Association of American Medical Colleges began reporting data on racial and ethnic background, the majority of applicants last year came from underrepresented communities.

However, underrepresentation remains, and we must not shy away from efforts to increase the growing representation of talented and highly qualified medical students from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups.


The study investigates residency-selection diversity in 11 physician specialties

The AMA joined the Association of American Medical Colleges and 44 other major health care organizations, citing convincing research to demonstrate that patients who receive treatment from racially diverse health care teams—especially those from historically marginalized populations—improve outcomes. In efforts to remove any consideration of race as a factor in admissions.

We jointly filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of Harvard and the University of North Carolina, arguing that a diverse physician workforce is good for patients, good for medicine, and critical to improving the health of our growing nation.

Our claims are backed by science and evidence in published research. Medical students who study alongside peers from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences gain greater cultural competence and benefit from an educational environment that values ​​inclusion and diversity.

US Supreme Court rulings supporting race-conscious admissions practices in higher education date back to 1978. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke That year, in a case specifically involving medical schools, Justice Louis Powell “recognized the advantages of such policies in bringing experience, perspective, and ideas.”

Subsequent Supreme Court rulings have upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions. Most recently, in 2016, the nation’s highest court issued a 4-3 ruling Fisher v. University of Texas It reaffirmed the long-held idea that educational diversity enriches the experience of all students, not just those from historically marginalized racial or ethnic groups.

As stated in the amicus brief filed by the AMA Fisherman: “Removing the ability of medical schools to consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity as one of many personal attributes would undermine their ability to assess each individual’s background as a whole, thus frustrating the goal of better serving the public’s health.” It still exists today.

Similarly, experience and research have shown that physicians who study and practice with colleagues from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds become better physicians. If we want to eliminate health disparities that affect minority and marginalized communities, we should not prevent medical educators and medical school admissions officers from considering race as part of a comprehensive review of applicants that takes into account test scores, grades, and other past measures. Academic achievements, personal interviews, and many other considerations.


High Court should not hamper efforts to diversify medical schools

In comprehensive admissions processes, schools consider and balance these broad factors as they build a class of students most likely to succeed and contribute to the schools, the medical field, and the public’s health. Race and life experiences can be considered among highly qualified candidates to help create a physician workforce equipped to meet the needs of all patients—a diverse medical school student with cultural humility. Considerations of race and ethnicity have a rightful place in medical school admissions policies when meeting the requirements for narrow tailoring and strict scrutiny imposed by the courts.

The AMA is committed to taking a leadership role in establishing and promoting diversity among our ranks of physicians. Nearly one in three in the US is from a historically marginalized racial or ethnic group, but only one in nine is a physician. That has to change.

To accelerate this process, the AMA spent nearly a decade convening the leading medical institutions through the accelerating change in medical education work. Our Reimagining Residency initiative, launched in 2019, strengthens our efforts to create a diverse pipeline and ensure that all future physicians are prepared to meet the grand challenges of 21st century medicine, including the advancement of health equity.

We are taking critical steps in our journey to provide optimal care for everyone, no matter who they are, where they live, and how they look. To achieve greater diversity in our physician workforce, we must retain and use all the tools at our disposal, so we strongly oppose any attempt to abandon the benefits of diversity in our classrooms, exam rooms, or anywhere else.


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