Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Affirmative Action Is Indispensable If We Want Doctors for the 21st Century

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Affirmative Action Is Indispensable If We Want Doctors for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Affirmative action is an umbrella that covers many activities -- from

aggressive recruiting to filling quotas, from

the awarding of contracts to higher education admissions.

This means that opponents can call up unpopular

images of the most aggressive examples of affirmative

action (such as hiring set-asides) to attack the entire idea of

affirmative action.

In the higher education arena, opponents subtly "play the

race card." They focus on affirmative action related to the

admission of racial/ethnic minorities although women, athletes,

and children of alumni and large donors also receive

special consideration.

An initial (and critical) question is: What is society's

compelling interest in assuring racial and ethnic diversity in

medicine? The rationale for racial and ethnic diversity in

medicine is robust, including at least five components.

* It is a matter of simple equity and justice that minorities have

equal opportunities to be a part of such a key profession in

our society.

* We now have data that minority physicians improve access

to care. They are much more likely to serve minority

patients, poorer patients, and sicker patients.

* A broad research agenda is essential for scientific progress

against the diseases that plague and kill all Americans.

Though there is less data to support this assertion, in my

experience people research the problems they see and feel.

in running faculty development programs, minority physicians

are much more likely to be interested in research

problems that are relevant to poor and minority patients.

* Medicine is now a trillion dollar-a-year corporate enterprise.

For a variety of reasons that are now well accepted in

corporate America, it is essential that some of those managers

be minority.

* "Cultural competence" is an essential skill in serving the

diverse patient population,s that characterize America now.

This requires diverse teams of students who can teach each

other cultural competence and diverse health care delivery

teams to practice it.

We have made dramatic progress in making medicine

"look like America." Only 30 years ago, 99 percent of students

in American medical schools (excluding Howard and Meharry)

were non-Hispanic whites. As with other parts of our society,

in the late 1960s medical schools opened their doors and

minority matriculants rapidly increased in the mid 1970s to

about 8 percent, where it stalled for 15 years. …

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