According to data from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population was African American in 2016 and close to 18 percent was Hispanic, but both groups combined only represented 11 percent of medical school graduates.
Those numbers, however, appear to be increasing: Between 2017 and 2018, the number of black students enrolled in US medical schools rose by 4.6 percent and the students who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native increased by 6.3 percent according to AAMC.
In 2017, women represented the majority of matriculants (new enrollees) in US medical schools at 50.7 percent. That’s up from 49.8 percent in 2016, AAMC says.
Increasing diversity rates in American medical school may be due, at least in part, to diversity initiatives that are being rolled out by AAMC and the American Medical Association (AMA).
In June, the AMA re-iterated its commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive physician workforce by developing a 37-medical school consortium and “pathway programs” that support students.
The AMA cites the work being done at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine as one of its successes.
The school has collaborated with Kaiser Permanente to develop an initiative that focuses on “addressing medically underserved populations, workforce diversity, and workforce gaps.”
Data suggests the efforts are paying off, with half of the students currently enrolled in the program representing “traditionally underrepresented” groups in medicine, the AMA says.
DIVERSITY IMPORTANT FOR PATIENT HEALTH
“Studies show that patients prefer receiving health care from and have better health outcomes when they can relate to, understand, and share similar backgrounds with their doctors,” AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, MD said in a statement.
“That’s why the AMA is committed to efforts aimed at ensuring medical schools are building a diverse pipeline of physicians whose racial and ethnic backgrounds reflect the actual needs of patients. One big way to advance health equity is to promote greater diversity among medical school applicants and enrollees.”
The shift towards diversity appears to be part of a growing trend in the US medical sector.
In June, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, said he will no longer participate in conferences that consist of all-male speaking panels, citing a greater need for diversity and inclusion.