Medical schools have made strides in recruiting and admitting students from under-represented ethnic and racial groups, but there's still a lot of work to be done. So says a new report on diversity on U.S. medical schools, based in part on case studies of Stanford and UC-California.
Called "part historical document, part how-to guide" in a piece by my colleague, the UCSF report looks at public and private attempts to improve diversity in medical schools over the last 50 years. It also highlights methods used at Stanford and UCSF, considered early national leaders in this area. (At UCSF, under-represented students have accounted for 20 to 25 percent of entering classes for most years since 1969; at Stanford the figure is 20 percent.)
Research shows quality of care is enhanced when patients are treated by physicians of a similar ethnic background. And given the growing diversity of California and the nation as a whole, the report's authors say the need for diversity among doctors-in-training is especially important. Their report highlights what should be done:
If improvements in the diversity of medical students and physicians are going to be achieved in the future, major adjustments must be made at all educational levels reaching back to kindergarten. Actions are also required at the state and federal levels in health and education policy as well as by private foundations, which have played a critical role in enhancing opportunities for low-income and minority students.
“Medical schools have been doing this for years,” said [Philip Lee, MD, UCSF chancellor emeritus and professor emeritus of social medicine]... “This isn’t rocket science anymore. Now it has to go beyond medical schools to looking at the serious inadequacies of K-16 education, particularly in California.
Photo of Stanford medical school's diversity office by Steve Fisch