MEDICAL EDUCATION: Striving To Boost Minority Enrollment
A sharp decline in the number of minority students enrolling in medical schools is prompting minority groups, medical societies and higher education leaders to fight restrictions on "affirmative action that they believe threaten the future health of minority communities," today's New York Times reports. A key battle this fall is Washington state's Initiative 200, which would ban all forms of affirmative action. The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and nearly 50 other medical societies are "mobilizing forces and raising money to help defeat" Initiative 200. Since 1994, first-year minority enrollment in medical schools has declined 12%, and in 1997 applications from prospective minority students dropped by 11%. American Association of Medical College's Dr. Herbert Nickens attributed the decline to the "anti- affirmative action drive." Dr. David Sundwall, chair of the Council on Graduate Medical Education, noted that minority representation is declining at multiple levels, "from medical school faculty members, to faculty members in key positions, to initial student applications to acceptances." He said, "The nation's health depends on access to doctors who reflect the nation's increasingly diverse population. Minority doctors are much more likely to set up practices in minority neighborhoods, and they are needed badly there."
In Defense Of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action policies at elite colleges "created the backbone of the American black middle class and have taught white classmates the value of integration," according to a recent study "of the grades, test scores, choice of major, graduation rates, careers and attitudes of 45,000 students at 28 selective universities over 20 years." In the study, Derek Bok and William Bowen, former presidents of Harvard and Princeton Universities, respectively, concluded that eliminating affirmative action would have a significant impact on minority enrollment in medical and law schools, "because the more selective the institution, the greater the impact." Association of American Medical Colleges President Jordan Cohen said, "Until we get to the point where we have an applicant pool that contains all sectors of our society with equivalent academic credentials, we will not get out from under the need to make special efforts to identify quality applicants across all those sectors." He said "the ultimate challenge is to repair educational disadvantages" (Noble, 9/29).
The University of California system announced that the "number of Latino first-year students at" the system's "five medical schools increased 15% this fall, but the number of African-American students declined slightly." Forty-five Latinos are enrolled this year, up from 39 last year. Only 24 African Americans are enrolled as first-year medical students this year, "three fewer than last year and a drop of 33% from 1995, when 36 enrolled." Meanwhile, Asian-American enrollment is up 34.5% since 1995, with 214 enrolling this year (Brand, Alameda Times-Star, 9/26).