U.S. medical school diversity is falling behind the shifting racial composition of the country, according to a new study published Sept. 4 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While the U.S. had population increases in 24- to 30-year-olds, both male and female, who are black, Hispanic and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (NHOPI) between 2002 and 2017, there were no significant increases in medical school applicants and attendees from these groups over the same period, the study concluded.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine who conducted the study created a ratio -- Racial Quotient (RQ) -- for the proportion of medical school applicants and matriculants from underrepresented groups in the Association of American Medical Colleges next to U.S. Census demographic data. Racial groups with an RQ of less than 1 were defined as underrepresented and more than 1 were overrepresented, according to the study.
Findings show that from 2002 to 2012, the proportion of black, Hispanic, NHOPI and American Indian or Alaska Native medical school matriculants has remained relatively unchanged, with an average RQ between 0.42 and 0.55, while Asians remained above an RQ of 3 and white men increased from 1.04 to 1.10 in the same period. White women, however, experienced a decrease in representation compared to population size. The authors specifically identified a “persistently deficient representation” of black, Hispanic and NHOPI medical students, the study said.
The study argues that no serious strides have been made to increase medical school diversity since the Liaison Committee on Medical Education set new diversity guidelines for accredited schools in 2009. A JAMA study from December 2018 suggested that the guidelines had a positive impact on the ethnic and racial diversity of admitted students, but it did not take into account population changes over the past decade, according to a Penn Medicine statement.