US Medical School Admissions Leaders' Experiences with Barriers to and Advancements in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Michelle Ko, Mark C. Henderson, Tonya L. Fancher, Maya R. London, Mark Simon, Rachel R. Hardeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: Despite decades-long calls for increasing racial and ethnic diversity, the medical profession continues to exclude members of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, and Indigenous groups. Objective: To describe US medical school admissions leaders' experiences with barriers to and advances in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Design, Setting, and Participants: This qualitative study involved key-informant interviews of 39 deans and directors of admission from 37 US allopathic medical schools across the range of student body racial and ethnic composition. Interviews were conducted in person and online from October 16, 2019, to March 27, 2020, and analyzed from October 2019 to March 2021. Main Outcomes and Measures: Participant experiences with barriers to and advances in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Results: Among 39 participants from 37 medical schools, admissions experience ranged from 1 to 40 years. Overall, 56.4% of participants identified as women, 10.3% as Asian American, 25.6% as Black or African American, 5.1% as Hispanic or Latinx, and 61.5% as White (participants could report >1 race and/or ethnicity). Participants characterized diversity broadly, with limited attention to racial injustice. Barriers to advancing racial and ethnic diversity included lack of leadership commitment; pressure from faculty and administrators to overemphasize academic scores and school rankings; and political and social influences, such as donors and alumni. Accreditation requirements, holistic review initiatives, and local policy motivated reforms but may also have inadvertently lowered expectations and accountability. Strategies to overcome challenges included narrative change and revision of school leadership structure, admissions goals, practices, and committee membership. Conclusions and Relevance: In this qualitative study, admissions leaders characterized the ways in which entrenched beliefs, practices, and power structures in medical schools may perpetuate institutional racism, with far-reaching implications for health equity. Participants offered insights on how to remove inequitable structures and implement process changes. Without such action, calls for racial justice will likely remain performative, and racism across health care institutions will continue..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2254928
JournalJAMA Network Open
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 24 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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