New medical students across the country participate in the white coat ceremony, symbolizing the start of their path to becoming a doctor. However, not all students will receive higher education and will be engaged in medicine. Systemic issues play a role in disparate graduate rates, signaling the need to reorganize medical education.
According to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, students are more likely to drop out of medical school if they are black or other underrepresented, have low incomes, or live in poor neighborhoods. This finding is even more important when one considers the impact of a shortage of various clinicians on the health of all communities.
According to the Institute of Medicine, even with equal access to healthcare, people of color constantly suffer from disparities in health. Having access to a provider with shared life experience can help bridge this gap by establishing trust, yet less than 1 in 4 blacks and Hispanics have a doctor who is of their race or ethnicity.
How can we make a difference? According to the authors of the JAMA study, “These experiences of social exclusion, racism, and discrimination have been associated with burnout, depression, and exhaustion and highlight the need for medical schools to adopt a more proactive strategy to combat racism.”
We know that cultural humility, a practice that helps develop the skill set to address anyone from any culture, improves patient satisfaction and outcomes. Taking proactive steps to eliminate bias, provide appropriate support, and create an anti-racism curriculum are critical to graduating more underrepresented medical students. Moreover, medical schools should broadly emphasize the creation of an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging, the celebration of multiculturalism, and the diversification of faculty and staff.
These are the core elements that we have included as part of the More in Common Alliance, a partnership between Morehouse School of Medicine and CommonSpirit Health to bring health equity to the US.
Among the 155 accredited medical schools in the United States, four historically black medical schools—Morehouse, Meharry College of Medicine, Howard University College of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science—produce
most black doctors in the country. Many more qualified candidates could participate if given the opportunity.
That’s why Morehouse and CommonSpirit have invested more than $115 million to begin a 10-year effort to nationally diversify the healthcare workforce. The More in Common Alliance is expanding student enrollment from underserved communities to attend the Morehouse Atlanta campus. We are creating five new regional medical campuses where third and fourth year medical students continue their education within CommonSpirit’s large national healthcare network for a wide variety of patient populations informed by Morehouse’s strategic commitment to a cultural competency-driven curriculum, intensive student support, and experiential learning .
Creating a more diverse workforce doesn’t start and end with medical school. It is critical to create a stream of young people of color in high schools, high schools, and undergraduate programs who are interested in careers in healthcare, offering greater professional opportunities in their communities and providing them with the exposure and preparation they need to be competitive. candidates of medical universities. We are also expanding access to postgraduate medical education with new programs in at least 10 different markets so that more qualified candidates can qualify for residency programs.
Finally, we believe it is important to promote a national model of learning, knowledge creation, and care based on tools, data, and evidence-based research that supports culturally competent clinical decision-making, prioritizes innovation, and drives change in the healthcare system.
A diverse workforce that reflects the communities we serve is vital to closing health inequalities. This begins with the incorporation of an anti-racist, culturally modest, active curriculum in a supportive environment throughout the student’s journey to becoming a clinician.
Note. The study, “Association of Socio-Demographic Characteristics with US Medical School Dropouts,” was published online on July 11 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.