MEDICAL SCHOOLS: Few Minorities Among Faculty, Students
Minorities continue to be underrepresented among students and faculty in U.S. medical schools, and minority faculty members are less likely to be promoted than their white counterparts, according to a study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers at the Association of American Medical Colleges used data from the association's Faculty Roster System to compare the promotion rates of minority and white medical school faculty members who became assistant or associate professors during the 1980s. The study found that minority representation in academic medicine has steadily increased over time; the percentage of newly appointed assistant professors who were underrepresented minorities -- African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, American Indians and Alaska Natives -- increased from 2.6% in 1980-81 to 4.6% in 1996-97. Still, growth in minority representation at the more senior associate professor level was relatively sluggish, suggesting that while medical schools have made gains in recruiting minority junior faculty, they have been "less successful" at promoting them. By 1997, 46% of white assistant professors had been promoted, as had 50% of white associate professors, compared to 30% of URM assistant professors and 36% of URM associate professors. The study also revealed that URM professors are less likely to be "on tenure tracks" or to have received NIH awards -- the two strongest positive predictors of medical faculty promotion -- but, even after adjusting for these two variables, the promotion lag persisted. The gaps in promotion were considerably more pronounced for URM faculty than for Asian or Pacific Islander (API) or other Hispanic faculty. API assistant professors were less likely to be promoted than their white colleagues -- 37% were promoted by 1997 compared with 46% of white assistant professors -- but at the associate professor level, API professors were promoted at rates comparable to white faculty. Further, for those Hispanics not included under the URM category, the promotion gap was not statistically significant at any rank (Fang et al., JAMA, 9/6). The full report is available at http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/current/rfull/joc91626.html.
Med School Applications Fall Again
In other medical school news, the number of applicants to the nation's 125 medical schools declined for the third straight year in 1999, the American Medical Association's annual survey found. More than 38,000 students applied last year, a 6% decline since 1998. During that time, the number of male applicants dropped 9.1% from 1998 to 1999, while the number of female applicants fell only 2% (AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/6). Minority enrollment dropped a "significant" 7%, which concerned Jordan Cohen, president of the American Association of Medical Colleges. Cohen said that the drop in minority enrollment can be attributed to several states banning use of race and ethnicity as one of the "explicit criteria" in selecting students for medical schools. He added that the development has "thrown a monkey wrench in our plans for truly bridging the diversity gap in medicine and acquiring a physician work force that looks like America." While the survey did not specifically address reasons for the overall enrollment decline, researcher Barbara Barzansky of the AMA's division of undergraduate medical education speculated that a strong U.S. economy may be luring potential students to other fields. Furthermore, "steady increases in the cost of medical school" have discouraged some students from applying, Barzansky said, adding that a student graduating from public medical schools this year had an average student loan debt of $80,000, while private school graduates accumulated an average debt of $105,000. Students also might be discouraged by working doctors' tales of longer hours, increased numbers of patients and "more pressure from managed care companies," Barzansky said. Despite the decline, twice as many students apply to medical school as there are open spots, NPR reports, allowing medical schools to continue selecting the "best and brightest" (NPR, "Morning Edition," 9/6). The NPR report is available at http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=09/05/2000&Prg ID=2. Note: You must have Real Audio Player hear the report.