Improving Diversity in Undergraduate Medical School Education Leads to Better Outcomes

By | April 19, 2023

As we continue to focus on developing models that will improve health inequities, we must look to our workforce for solutions. It is a well-studied notion that having diversity in medical schools is essential for numerous reasons. For one, it provides differences in thoughts and experiences creating a learning environment that enhances the educational value for all participants, including the professors. It also provides a workforce that better represents the communities’ clinicians serve once their training is complete. Bottom line, a more diverse workforce serving a diverse population will lead to better outcomes.

Furthermore, we must examine the underlying issues as we delve into the potential barriers. From the youngest ages and during those informative years of education, do minorities consider medicine a viable career choice? Does the family and community structure allow for this possibility? Is it possible to attend medical school and graduate without a debt load that makes it impossible to contemplate the idea? Undoubtedly, there is a point where the cost outweighs the financial value of being a physician. How does it impact the other components of a social fabric that are culturally important? May I attend school at a pace that works for a family unit versus a singular person? Can I finish early or extend my education without a fight or retribution?

Systematic solutions must be in place if we genuinely wish to change the current ecosystem. And we must address how we attract and ensure that all feel they can achieve any goal they set in front of themselves. We must remove the financial and social barriers that exist today. Educational models must move away from set models based on a fixed number of courses during a specific time frame, to one more focused on obtaining a deeper level of knowledge and experience that embraces mastering the required material. Elevating the voices of those that bring different perspectives and life experiences during educational activities and training demonstrates the desire for the system to understand the underlying problems and addressing them.  Rather than just educating in the present paradigm.

As we work to improve these dynamics, administrative policies are needed to understand the changes required. Because profound disparities exist and are systemic, holistic admission policies that address representation from various backgrounds will positively affect persons who belong to historically marginalized groups. Instead of saying one is not qualified, how do we address those issues and elevate everyone to the necessary qualifications rather than addressing the argument of lowering standards? For changes to occur, there will be a period where such thinking and activities will be essential. Otherwise, we will promulgate more of the same.