Excluding race from medical school admissions harms health care

T.On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases that may rule out race as a factor in the college admissions process. Precedents established in 2003 have ruled that race is given limited consideration in admission to higher education when the courts, along with other factors, require it to achieve student diversity. If the courts reversed their earlier rulings, the impact would be felt broadly across all sectors of society, including the health care system.

Known from my perspective as President-elect of the Board of Trustees of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), from my role as Dean of Medical Education at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and from the consideration of race as one of many factors. It is not only relevant but essential in the admissions process from the standpoint of being educated. U.S. medical schools, and health care in general, thrive on the diversity of thoughts, experiences, and perspectives made possible by this holistic approach to admissions.

What does holistic mean here? The goal of all medical schools is to select a class of physicians who demonstrate not only academic performance but also compassion and a desire to provide quality care. In addition to considering standardized test scores and grades, one wants to understand applicants’ personalities, beliefs, and the circumstances that helped shape their lives. A person’s race inherently affects their perspective — this is an undeniable fact that must be taken into account.


We often hear the question, “Is the admissions process a merit or is it about diversity?” it’s about both. they are not mutually exclusive.

An important part of medical education is for diverse students to learn from each other’s experiences. They share ideas and look for solutions to make the healthcare system more equitable. In Georgetown, students enthusiastically volunteer at school student-run clinics to learn from and support care for underresourced members of the community.


The perspectives and values ​​exchanged among students in medical school are put into practice after graduation. A more diverse workforce facilitates a better patient experience, especially among marginalized groups. It says it intends to open practices in underserved areas where there is a high enrollment rate of people of color and where doctors are more needed. People feel they receive better care and communication from physicians of the same race and gender.

When physicians meet face-to-face with patients to build trust, they are more likely to seek preventative care and to discuss health concerns openly, which is important to their long-term health.

I know how important it is for physicians to actively engage with communities that are often overlooked. Growing up, I have seen racial inequality in health care affect my own family living in a highly racially segregated community. He went to a community safety net hospital and waited 28 hours to receive treatment. The shortage of doctors in these racially segregated areas has contributed to both a decline in care and a decline in advocacy for standard care.

Like many students I have been privileged to teach, I wanted to change this broken system. I wanted my family (and others like them) to get care when they needed it. Becoming a doctor was how I made this kind of change.

This virtuous cycle – more diverse medical professions, better care for the underserved, improved health – starts with who gets accepted into medical school. We still have a lot of work to do to make it reflect better.

AAMC data show that medical school classes are becoming more diverse, but progress is still gradual. Between 1978 and his 2019, the number of black male medical students stalled at about 3%. As America faces a shortage of doctors, existing barriers to care will rise even higher as resources become more squeezed among historically marginalized communities.

If the Supreme Court overturns current precedent, the country must prepare to face the consequences, as California did after it banned race considerations in college admissions. Medical schools across the state have seen a significant drop in enrollment of students of color. The setback in patient care caused by a more homogeneous student population is more difficult to measure, but certainly significant.

The tragic mistake of excluding race as a factor in admissions by the Supreme Court would be exacerbated in many ways: who gets the chance to attend medical school, the richness of its education, the country’s most difficult Quality of care in the situation. To the health of our communities, our families and our neighbors.

Denied the ability to consider an applicant’s race, admissions officers may look to a student’s zip code or socioeconomic status as court-approved indicators, but these are not the student’s lived experiences. We’ll never tell the full story of. Racing is an inherent part of it. It should remain a fundamental part of the admissions process.

Lee Jones is a psychiatrist, president-elect of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Medical Colleges of America, and Dean of Medical Education at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC.

Related Articles

Back to top button