News Release

Diverse Medical School Admissions Seen as Vital for Physician Workforce


A new study published in the Journal of American Medicine Health Forum analyzed data from more than 81,000 MCAT examinees nationwide from 2015 through 2018, finding that Black and Hispanic exam-takers were less likely to apply to medical school. The study also found that American Indian, Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic exam-takers were also less likely to matriculate into medical school compared to white exam-takers. Further, those populations were also “significantly more likely to report that a prehealth adviser negatively influenced their decision to apply to medical school.”

    Faiz is an emergency medicine physician and a UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program fellow. 

Barriers to medical school admission and matriculation include lower parental educational levels and greater financial and education obstacles––such as outstanding premedical school loans––than white MCAT-takers. These barriers largely account for the racial and ethnic differences in application and matriculation to medical school seen in the study.

Faiz, who co-authored the study, says that to combat these problems, medical schools need to “preserve race-conscious admissions, eliminate economic barriers, [and] mandate educating advisors and admissions committees on the enduring effects of structural [and] interpersonal racism that lead to these disparities.” She added: “In the face of potential bans on affirmative action,” the study “shows why race-conscious med[ical] school admissions are essential to diversifying the physician workforce.”

Faiz told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Day in and day out as an emergency physician, supported by centuries of research and personal accounts, I have seen the profound effect of structural and interpersonal racism on patients. One solution is diversifying the physician workforce to reflect our patient populations, but we are not close to achieving this goal. As a researcher, I wanted to look at why. 

“The future of race-conscious medical school admissions is very much threatened by the impending Supreme Court decision which is slated to ban affirmative action. However, it is necessary to consider race, amongst other factors, to achieve health equity through a physician workforce with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Most importantly, the lives of our patients depend on physicians that reflect their communities and question the status quo in medicine. Our research highlights why the current lack of diversity amongst medical students is entrenched in the effects of upstream factors rooted in structural racism, as well as interpersonal discrimination.  

“Generally, the focus of diversifying the physician workforce has been on ‘pipeline’  programs––which are important. However, the effects of upstream factors such as generational wealth… are at the root of why our medical schools are not as diverse as they should be. While our findings largely confirm and provide evidence to support what many students of minoritized backgrounds experience, I would say that the public should find it alarming that despite decades of research, advocacy and dollars, these barriers and disparities still exist among those interested in pursuing a career in medicine.”