Medical school diversity concerns raised following Trump administration reversal on race consideration

The Association of American Medical Colleges is raising concerns that the Trump administration's recent rescission of guidance of consideration of race in university admissions might threaten efforts to improve diversity at medical schools.

Earlier this week, the administration announced it would no longer support guidance created under the Obama administration encouraging schools to take a student's race into account in their admissions. Schools and universities will be allowed to take a race-neutral approach in admissions and enrollment decisions.

“We are deeply concerned that this signals opposition to the consideration of race as one of many individualized factors in higher education admissions, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has upheld this practice for 40 years, and as recently as 2016," said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D.

This comes just months after the AAMC raised the alarm with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about delays in processing visas for medical residents scheduled to start their training at hospitals around the country in July. The issue has since been resolved.

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A study published in the Journal of Higher Education found that bans on affirmative action in six states reduced first-time enrollment of medical school students who are historically underrepresented students of color from about 18.5% to about 15.3%. The study linked racial and ethnic diversity at medical schools to "more culturally competent physicians, and physicians who are from underrepresented minority groups are more likely than their nonminority peers to serve minority populations and provide care to other medically underserved populations, such as socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals."

Kirch said AAMC supports individual, holistic reviews of each applicant as a way to improve the overall physician workforce and ultimately patient care. A recent report released by AAMC found nearly all respondents (99%) said they had or were planning programs to recruit a more diverse student body, up from 84% in 2015.

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Programs are being geared toward increasing the number of students from minorities now underrepresented in medicine, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and students from rural and underserved communities.

"Medical student diversity is necessary to prepare physicians to provide care to an increasingly diverse population and to address significant health disparities," Kirch said. "To prepare a physician workforce for these challenges, many medical schools have determined that it is necessary to include the consideration of race and ethnicity, along with many other factors, in the admissions process."