The Importance of Diversity in Medical Schools

medical schoolToday, researchers say too few women and minorities are entering certain medical specialties in the United States.  For years, medical schools have been trying to increase the diversity of their students.  Experts believe diversifying the physician workforce may be key to addressing health disparities and inequities.  To support this claim, a study published in the Journal of Academic Medicine interviewed medical students over the course of four years to try and explain this phenomenon.

In 2000, medical students from all four years at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine were enrolled in a telephone survey about the relevance of racial diversity (among students) in their medical education. Students responded to the interviewer’s questions on a five-point Likert-type scale.  (A Likert item is simply a statement that the respondent is asked to evaluate by giving it a quantitative value on any kind of subjective or objective dimension, with level of agreement/disagreement being the dimension used. For example, the format of a typical five-level Likert item, looks like this: 1. Strongly disagree, 2. Disagree, 3. Neither agree nor disagree, 4. Agree, 5. Strongly agree).

Of the 55% of students who could be located, 97% responded to the survey. Students reported having little intercultural contact during their formative years but significantly more interactions during higher education years, especially in medical school. Students reported contacts with diverse peers greatly enhanced their educational experience. They strongly supported strengthening or maintaining current affirmative action policies in admissions. The responses and demography of the Harvard and UCSF students did not differ significantly, nor did they differ for majority students and URM students—all groups overwhelmingly thought that racial and ethnic diversity among their peers enhanced their education.

Given these findings, here are the top 10 medical schools, provided by the U.S. News & World Report, that interviewed the most minority applicants in 2014:

1. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center:

  • All applicants interviewed: 768
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 318

2. George Washington University (DC):

  • All applicants interviewed: 1,150
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 276

3. Tufts University (MA):

  • All applicants interviewed: 948
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 257

4. Yale University (CT):

  • All applicants interviewed: 745
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 239

5. University of Texas Health Science Center (San Antonio):

  • All applicants interviewed: 960
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 236

6. Dartmouth College (Geisel, NH):

  • All applicants interviewed: 752
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 231

7. University of Illinois:

  • All applicants interviewed: 827
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 226

8. University of California (San Diego):

  • All applicants interviewed: 743
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 225

9. Columbia University (NY):

  • All applicants interviewed: 1,064
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 217

10. Boston University:

  • All applicants interviewed: 1,069
  • Underrepresented minorities interviewed: 215

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