The number of Black, Hispanic, and female students increased at medical schools for the 2022-2023 academic year.
The number of members of historically underrepresented groups at medical schools increased in the 2022-2023 academic year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Lack of diversity in the healthcare workforce risks undermining trust and patient health, according to the Urban Institute. An Urban Institute report published last year found that only 22.2% of Black adults reported being of the same race as their healthcare providers compared to 73.8% of White adults and only 23.1% of Hispanic/Latinx adults reported racial, ethnic, and language concordance with their usual healthcare provider.
Recently released AAMC data shows student diversity gains at medical schools when comparing the 2020-2021 and 2022-2023 academic years:
- The number of Black or African American matriculants increased by 9%. Black or African American students made up 10% of matriculants in 2022-23, up from 9.5% in 2020-21. First-year Black or African American men increased by 5%.
- Matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased by 4%. Individuals from this group made up 12% of total matriculants.
- Women continued to make gains in 2022-23, making up 57% of applicants, 56% of matriculants, and 54% of total enrollment. This is the fourth year in a row that women made up the majority of these three groups.
Increasing diversity in the physician workforce is a top goal at AAMC and medical schools, David Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. "We know that more diversity in the physician workforce builds trust and enhances the physician-patient relationship, translating into better health outcomes. The AAMC and our member medical schools are committed to increasing the number of both applicants and matriculants from historically underrepresented groups."
Diversity in medical school students and the physician workforce is beneficial for the profession and patients, Geoffrey Young, PhD, senior director of transforming the healthcare workforce at AAMC, told HealthLeaders.
"Diversity both in the classroom and the clinical settings is essential for the overall health of our nation. Based on my experience of working at two medical schools, when the classroom and the workplace are more diverse, it promotes a high level of cultural competency with the unique opportunity of peer-to-peer learning. Ideally, students will learn from one another and teach each other to be better doctors because they are engaging with folks who are different from them. These skills ultimately translate into higher performing physicians," he said.
Promoting diversity in the physician workforce has a positive impact on clinical outcomes, Young said. "There are studies that show that health inequities along racial and ethnic lines persist in many aspects of health. These studies also show that increased diversity in the health professions can help close those gaps."
Medical schools should continue to press for diversity gains in their students, he said. "I would not put a limit on diversity in the physician workforce. This country is becoming increasingly diverse; and based on our data, having a more diverse physician workforce is going to improve patient outcomes. What is important is that we have representation both in the process of educating physicians and in creating teams of healthcare professionals. The more diverse they are, the better it will be for patients."
Medical schools have made progress in terms of gender diversity, but that journey is far from over, Young said. "We are pleased that women continue to represent a large percentage of those who apply and matriculate into medical school. But if you look at the physician workforce, it is over 60% men. So, while our medical schools are doing well in accepting and graduating women, when we look at the physician workforce there is clearly more work to be done."
To promote diversity in their students, medical schools are taking several approaches, including a holistic approach to admissions, he said. "They not only look at metrics such as grades and MCAT scores but also look at the experiences and attributes of students. Where did they grow up? Are they from a rural or underserved community? Do they have strong leadership skills? Medical schools are looking purposely at the whole person and not just metrics to increase diversity."
Efforts to boost diversity in the physician workforce must go beyond medical schools, Young said. "Medicine is a microcosm of the larger society. While we are committed to diversifying the workforce, it will not happen until we go further upstream. We need to address inequities in K-12 education. There are also learners who struggle with food security and other social determinants."
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
Comparing the 2020-2021 and 2022-2023 academic years, the number of Black or African American matriculants increased by 9%.
Matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased by 4%.
Women continued to make gains in 2022-23, making up 57% of applicants, 56% of matriculants, and 54% of total enrollment.