MEDICAL EDUCATION: Commission Calls For Racial Diversity
The Pew Health Professions Commission yesterday released a "sweeping report" calling for greater ethnic and cultural diversity in the medical profession. "This is not a quota born out of a sense of equity or distribution or justice, but a principle that the best health care may need to be delivered by those that fully understand a cultural tradition," the report says. The panel, chaired by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), notes that minority health care workers are more likely to work in underserved areas and to serve people disproportionately affected by health problems (Meckler, AP/FOX News, 12/9). "If we aren't training folks from the neighborhoods and communities with the highest morbidity and mortality rates, who's going to go back ... and begin to address the problem?" asked Dr. Kenneth Edelin of the Boston University School of Medicine.
Not As Easy As It Looks
The Boston Globe reports that many experts are worried that efforts to boost minority enrollment have failed; data show that "the number of women and minorities applying to medical school has dropped" in the last two years for the first time this decade. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that while women comprise a little over half the population, they only make up about 40% of medical school applicants and admissions. And while minorities comprise 20% of the population, they account for just 10% of medical school applicants and enrollees. The Globe reports that "the situation for minorities is particularly worrisome given attacks on affirmative action" (Kong, 12/10). Dr. Herbert Nickens, AAMC vice president for community and minority programs, said the Pew recommendations would not be easy to implement. "It's hard to find a substitute for race" in admissions criteria, he said.
The Pew recommendations yesterday are part of a "larger report that takes a broad look at health curricula, professional competence and funding of professional education." The panel also advised medical schools to adopt other "nonacademic criteria in admissions decisions," such as cross-cultural experience and community service (AP/Fox News, 12/9).