The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Justice and Department of Education are warning U.S. medical schools, nursing schools, dental schools and other health-related schools about discriminating against applicants with hepatitis B, HHS announced.
The departments are investigating complaints against medical and dental schools for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, federal health officials said in a letter sent Thursday. They attribute the schools' unlawful discrimination to a misunderstanding of the hepatitis B virus.
Moreover, institutions of higher medical education also may be violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on race, Inside Higher Ed reported. That's because Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders represent 50 percent of Americans with hepatitis B, the letter noted.
"The Justice Department strongly urges health-related schools to review the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's] recommendations and to ensure that their policies and practices comply with federal nondiscrimination laws," Jocelyn Samuels, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement released by HHS. "Applicants and students with hepatitis B should not have to face exclusion on the basis of unfounded fears and stereotypes, and the Justice Department will not tolerate it."
The discriminatory admissions could stem from some medical schools not updating enrollment policies established before the CDC revised guidelines, Geoffrey H. Young, senior director for student affairs and programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges, told Inside Higher Ed. "Medically we have more information now," he said.
The CDC issued an updated set of guidelines to clarify healthcare workers and students who carry the hepatitis B virus generally pose little or no risk to patients.