AAMC Launches Campaign To Increase Medical School Diversity

The Association of American Medical Colleges on Thursday launched a new marketing campaign designed to encourage more minorities to apply to medical school. The $1 million campaign is being initiated after AAMC studies revealed an untapped pool of minority undergraduates studying biology, which is the most common field of study in preparation for medical training.

The association, which represents 125 accredited U.S. medical schools and nearly 400 major teaching hospitals, has launched a Web site, www.AspiringDocs.org, which offers prospective doctors information on preparing for the medical school entrance exam, the MCAT, and paying for medical school. The site also features on online community, designed to be a support network for minorities.

In addition to the Web site, the association is hoping to nudge more minorities biology undergraduates toward a career in medicine with advertising featuring minority doctors sharing their success stories.

“We must change the face of medicine to reflect our nation’s growing diversity,” says AAMC President Darrell G. Kirch. “The AAMC hopes this new campaign will encourage more minority students to follow their dreams of becoming doctors so that we can improve access to quality care and ultimately eliminate health care disparities.”

Statistics show an increase in the number of Black, Hispanic and American Indian students studying biology as undergraduates. However, there has been no significant change in the number of minority biology majors applying to medical school in more than a decade. 

Between 1993 and 2004, the most recent data available, the proportion of Black biology majors who applied to medical school decreased from 83 percent to 44 percent; Hispanic biology majors who applied to medical school decreased from 75 percent to 39 percent, and American Indians dropped from 73 percent to 45 percent.

AAMC attempted to determine the factors that may hamper students from pursuing medical school. Focus group interviews and statistical research show students are concerned about a range of issues, including performing well on the MCAT, paying for medical school and balancing work and family as a physician — all issues addressed by the advertising spots and the Web site. Focus group members also expressed a need for more support, says Dr. Jordan J. Cohen, president emeritus of AAMC.

The organization’s research was the impetus for the new two-year campaign to increase diversity in medicine. On the Web site, students of all ages will also be able to submit questions on the “Ask the Expert” section. Another feature is the ‘Hot Topics’ section, where students can share their experiences. The “Inspiring Stories” profile will help students understand the paths taken by other minority medical students, as well as how to overcome barriers and obstacles.

The outreach effort will start at four universities with the largest number of minority biology majors, racial diversity and affiliation with medical schools. They are the University of Arizona, the University of Pittsburgh, California State University, Fresno and Rutgers University. The campaign will also target younger students who may not have decided on a major.

The targeted outreach at these schools “will help us understand the dynamics on campus,” says Kevin Harris, director of AAMC’s Division of Diversity Policy and Programs. “It will help us understand how students learn about careers, the channels that exist on campus, and how to help them to remain engaged.”

AAMC reports project a doctor shortage by 2015, and a critical need to increase the number of minority physicians to improve overall patient care as U.S. demographics become increasingly diverse. While Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians make up 25 percent of the U.S. population, only 12 percent of medical school graduates and just 6 percent of practicing physicians hail from these groups.

–Dianne Hayes

 

Reader comments on this story:

There is currently 1 reader comment on this story:

“the need for a diverse workforce of physicians”
I am very delighted to see that the need for a diverse workforce of physicians is recognized. We have been aware of the shortage for quite sometime and in the past we have just talked about it – but never were willing to step up to the plate and do anything. I hope your efforts are successful and can/will be replicated at other undergraduate schools. I am the Health Careers Program Manager at a historically black institution and I work hard to encourage our students to pursue their respective dreams of becoming a doctor. Some of the very things you are addressing are key issues. Please keep me informed of any results you may have, as they can be a beacon of light for others who are trying to increase the number of minority students who gain admission to – and are successful in – medical school.

    I am saddened by the withdrawal of financial support for one of the federally funded programs (HCOP)that had an impact on getting more minorities into medical and graduate school.

    Therefore, if you know of any resources that might be of assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Thanks for this avenue to express my opinion.

-Elizabeth Lovett,
Albany, Georgia



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