Academic journal article College Student Journal

Educational and Career Barriers to the Medical Profession: Perceptions of Underrepresented Minority Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Educational and Career Barriers to the Medical Profession: Perceptions of Underrepresented Minority Students

Article excerpt

This study examines the perception of minority students underrepresented in the medical profession regarding educational and career barriers and to ascertain gender differences on their perceptions. A 30 item educational and career barriers inventory was administered to 97 underrepresented minority (URM) students enrolled in a special premedical education preparatory program. The results reveal that items viewed as possible barriers by the majority of students include: Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores, money problems, pressure to perform academically, negative stereotypes and ethnic discrimination in their future jobs. The majority of students (96%) feel they can overcome any barriers that stand in the way of career goal achievement. The sex discrimination subscale on the inventory produced the only significant gender differences.


The career development of women and people of color is greatly influenced by their perceptions of educational and career opportunity as well as their perception of barriers including social forces, racism, sexism, and classism (Arbona, 1990; Astin, 1984; Betz & Fitzgerald, 1987; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994; Hurtado, 1989; McWhirter, 1994). Several authors contend that perceived barriers to educational and career goals are particularly important in understanding the gap between ability and occupational attainment among people of color (Arbona, 1990; Leung, 1985). Hotchkiss and Borow (1990) noted that counselors working with multiethnic populations have been encouraged to consider the students' perceived barriers throughout the counseling process.

By attempting to identify educational and career barriers, the medical profession has for a number of years sought to improve the participation of minorities in all aspects of medicine (Petersdorf, Turner, Nickens, & Ready, 1990). Toward this end the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has sponsored two major initiatives regarding minorities in medicine: (1) special attention should be given to minority groups underrepresented in medicine; and (2) minority groups should be represented in medicine in the same proportion as in the population as a whole (Petersdorf, Turner, Nickens, & Ready, 1990). Despite these initiatives, Cohen (1997) noted a recent decline in the applicant pool of underrepresented minorities (URM). According to AAMC URM's are defined as African Americans, Mexican Americans/Chicanos, mainland Puerto Ricans and American Indians/Native Alaskans. Thus the general purpose of this paper is to examine the perceived educational and career barriers of a sample of underrepresented minority premedical students.

A small number of studies have investigated perceived career barriers among ethnic minority college students. For example Luzzo (1993) found family issues, lack of study skills, ethnicity, and finances as common among the career barriers experienced and anticipated by Hispanic-American, Caucasian-American, African-American, Filipino-American, and Asian-American college students. The authors also noted that Hispanic students were most likely to have experienced financial barriers, and African-American students were most likely to view ethnicity as a barrier in the future. Burlew and Johnson (1992) reported that African-American women in nontraditional careers identified racial and gender discrimination, limited opportunities to develop political clout, and difficulty finding a mentor as barriers to their career success.

Educational barriers to the medical profession in regard to URMs have been identified throughout the career pipeline. Girotti (1999) sighted several barriers that tend to reduce the potential pool of minority candidates for medical school including (a) inadequate pre-college preparation in the sciences and in college enrollment and achievement; (b) low scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT); and (c) financial disadvantages. …

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