Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Debunking Myths about Applying T? Medical School Could ?Elp Attract More Hispanics

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Debunking Myths about Applying T? Medical School Could ?Elp Attract More Hispanics

Article excerpt

More recruiting of underrepresented minorities, especially Hispanics, is needed by U.S. medical schools in order to train physicians to treat the nation's increasingly diverse population. Demystifying the process of applying to medical school might be one of the keys to expanding the diversity of applicants.

"We are deeply committed to increasing the number of minorities in medical schools." said Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). "You don't improve the health of communities without having a work force that reflects the á'versity of those communities."

Kirch's comments are reinforced by research from the American Medical Association (AiVIA) showing that minority patients prefer minority physicians, thus making it especially critical to attract and retain more minority applicants to medical school. For example, Hispanics make up 38 percent of California's population, but only 5 percent of the state's physicians are Hispanic. An AMA report titled Minorities in Medicine states that by 2050 racial and ethnic minorities will comprise half of the U.S. population.

"Diversity in the work force will increase access to health care for the underserved and will help narrow the healthcare disparities gap disproportionately experienced by racial and ethnic minorities and individuals of low socioeconomic status," stales the report from the AMA Medical Student Selection Minority Issues Committee.

Both the AMA and the AAMC have launched aggressive campaigns to pursue minority applicants and help them overcome some of the financial and academic obstacles to enrolling in medical school. Although there have been gains, analysts say there is still much work to be done to train the next generation of physicians.

Minority Enrollment Increasing but not Fast Enough

The good news is that more minorities enrolled in medical schools in 2010, which the AAMC says is a sign that more African-American, Hispanic and Native American students are interested in pursuing careers in medicine. Hispanic men represented the most significant change, with an increase of 17.1 percent over 2009, while overall enrollment by Hispanic men and women rose 9 percent. The number of new African-American medical students increased about 3 percent, according to figures released in an AAMC study. Native American enrollment increased by nearly 25 percent over last year, but the actual numbers were small compared with other minority groups.

Overall, the number of students who enrolled in medical school was up by 1.5 percent from last year.

Although those trends are promising, they are not enough. The association projects that the nation will have a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2019. The health care overhaul, which in its current form will provide insurance to 32 million Americans currently uninsured, creates an even higher demand for physicians. On a positive note, a study done by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that the opportunity to help traditionally underserved populations is motivating more minorities to be interested in medical school.

Some medical schools nationwide are targeting minorities, often as early as grade school, by offering programs designed Io foster an interest in science and medicine among children. Other programs, such as those at Texas A&M and the University of Rochester's Early Medical Scholars program, guarantee medical school admission to college undergraduates who meet program requirements, which include maintaining a certain grade point average and participating in educational summer programs. The goal is to make medical school seem attainable to students who might think it is out of their reach and to strengthen their position as medical school candidates.

Myths and Missteps in Applying to Medical Schools

Unless students are part of an automatic admissions program, most individuals who aspire to medical school must deal with the hurdles of applying. …

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