MEDICAL SCHOOLS: Minority Enrollment Down, Poor Communities Affected
A decline in minority enrollment at California medical schools has exacerbated an existing shortage of physicians in poor, minority areas, the Contra Costa Times reports. California physicians are located primarily in coastal regions and wealthier cities, leaving poorer and rural areas with a 10% ratio of doctors to residents. This situation is of particular concern because minority physicians typically serve poorer communities. Since 1993, the number of black and Latino students at the University of California's five public schools -- in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Irvine and Davis -- has decreased by 46%. Latinos, for example, constitute only 4.8% of the state's licensed physicians, but 30% of the overall population. The "competitive" nature of California medical schools and recent affirmative action legislation, such as Proposition 209, a measure that prohibited state public medical schools from considering race in the admissions process, have made it increasingly difficult for minorities to gain admittance. At the same time, California's private medical schools -- including Stanford and Loma Linda -- have experienced diminishing minority enrollment, leaving some to speculate that "prestige and scholarships" have lured many minority candidates to East Coast schools.
'Diamonds in the Rough?'
While medical schools' minority enrollments decreased across the state, the private USC "defied the trend last year," nearly doubling its number of black and Latino students. Erin Quinn, associate dean of USC's medical school admissions process, established a more qualitative set of admissions criteria, taking into account confidence, leadership and communication skills -- "less tangible attributes" than grades or test scores. Through these qualitative criteria, Quinn hopes to discover "diamonds in the rough," or students who can thrive beyond what their test scores would suggest. As a result of its changed admission standards, USC increased its minority enrollment from 13 out of 160 students to 25 out of 160 students last year, which Quinn said gives the school "better students who can communicate well with patients, who are interested in serving low-income people" (Weiss, 8/10).