When 245 pre-medical students were surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep regarding medical school, an 80 percent of them agreed: America’s medical school programs should be more demographically representative of the overall patient population.
The survey project, which was conducted in January and published results in April, consisted of talking to varying groups of students who provided feedback to Kaplan. The research was sparked by a complaint filed against Texas Tech’s medical school admission practices 14 years ago, according to the Kaplan press release.
“When you look at the survey, I think the main thing to keep in mind is that one of the biggest discussions among those in the medical education community is diversity,” Petros Minasi, director of pre-medical programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said.
Dr. Quinn Capers, associate dean for admissions in the Ohio State College of Medicine, said that the College of Medicine is one of the most diverse in the nation: The incoming class is the sixth class in a row in which women slightly outnumber men, and 24 percent of the class consists of minorities when the national average is 13 percent, he said.
Capers also said that excluding historically black medical schools, Ohio State’s medical school enrolls the second-highest number of African Americans.
“We’re leaders in educating women physicians and educating underrepresented minority physicians, and that’s a real source of pride,” Capers said.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 4 percent of active physicians are black and 4 percent are Hispanic, even though blacks and hispanics make up about 13 percent of the patient population in the United States.
Capers said that it is important to have diverse groups in medical schools because it helps future physicians understand a wider variety of patients and creates a workforce that is more representative of the population.
“If we have a physician workforce that reflects our population that we’re treating, not only does that increase the chances that patients will have a physician that might share their background, but just as important — maybe even more importantly because physicians work together with a team approach — physicians are exposed to people from cultures that are different than their own and get to see that wonderful human beings come in all sizes, shapes, forms, races, sexuality, et cetera,” Capers said.
While demographics take time, Minasi said it’s important to note that for the first time since 2004, more women than men have applied to U.S. medical schools and now make up about 51 percent of the applicants.
“When you’re looking at the question of why medical schools are not very diverse, it’s something we will continue tracking along the way,” Minasi said. “Medical schools know that it’s a challenge in terms of the work they’re doing.”
Capers said that negative comments regarding diversity in medical schools leave more work to be done.
“We haven’t done a good job here of really getting out the message that we’re not promoting diversity just for diversity’s sake. We’re not promoting diversity just so we can say, ‘Hey, look, we’re diverse,’” Capers said. “We’re promoting diversity because there actually is a wealth of research literature that shows that diverse groups make better decisions and diversity in medicine actually improves healthcare outcomes.”
A previous version of this article said that the research took place over 14 years and that students gave feedback to medical school admissions officers. These issues have now been corrected.