Despite nearly a quarter century of diversity initiatives by government agencies, medical schools and other organizations, the percentage of medical students who belong to historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minority (URM) groups has remained fairly uniform, fluctuating from 8.0% to 12.5%/ while representation of these same minority groups—African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans—in the U.S. population has reached 26% and continues to grow.
The Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Workforce concluded “failure to reverse these trends could place the health of at least one-third of the nation’s citizens at risk.” Furthermore, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has recommended “institutional and policy level change” aimed at increasing the proportion of URMs among the health professions as part of a multifaceted strategy to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare.
Understanding the causes of difficulties in recruitment of URM students has been the focus of much commentary and limited empirical analyses. We contribute to this work through a national survey of medical schools that aims to assess self-reported efforts by the medical schools to recruit URM students, identify barriers which the schools report in recruiting URM students and examine the opinions of administrators regarding their success at URM recruitment. The only other similar survey of which we are aware is the 2004 study by Dinan et. al., commissioned by the Sullivan Task Force. However, they were only able to obtain limited data from most schools, and the focus of their analysis was on the subset of 14 medical schools they identified as having innovative programs aimed at increasing diversity.