How 'Tour for Diversity' is helping minorities apply to med school

Research shows whites are accepted to med school at higher rates than minorities

To help address the underrepresentation of minorities in medicine, a group of medical professionals is helping prospective graduate students navigate the application process through a nationwide tour, Karen Weintraub reports for STAT News.

The initiative, called the Tour for Diversity in Medicine, was started by a group of Black and Latino doctors, dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, and students. Tour members travel to various U.S. cities, hosting outreach events at schools across the country. The group runs two five-day bus tours each year.

Minorities underrepresented in medicine

Blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5 percent of doctors are black, STAT News reports. In Georgia, for instance—where blacks comprise a third of the state population—only 13 percent of doctors are black.

Research shows Hispanics and Native Americans are even more underrepresented, according to STAT News. For example, 38 percent of the population in Texas identifies as Hispanic, but Hispanics make up just 8 percent of the state's doctors.

Meanwhile, whites are accepted to medical school at higher rates than blacks or other minorities. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the medical school admission rate is 44 percent among white applicants, compared with 42 percent among Asian and Latino applicants and 34 percent among black applicants.

There is a particular lack of representation in medical school of black men, the AAMC reports. AAMC data show that fewer black men applied to medical school in 2014 than in 1978. Further, according to an AAMC report, blacks are the only racial or ethnic group in which women considerably outnumber men in medical school.

Implications

This underrepresentation of minorities in medicine could have negative public health implications, STAT News reports.

Research has repeatedly found that underrepresented minorities are more likely to follow medical recommendations when doctors look like them. In addition, according to STAT News, a diverse medical workforce also improves care for traditionally underserved sectors of the population, such as the elderly, those living in rural areas, and minority groups.

Tour for Diversity

Tour for Diversity's goal is to connect minority students with those who have successfully navigated the medical, dental, pharmacy, or podiatry school application process, STAT News reports.

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At tour events, topics of discussion include:

  • Interviewing for medical school, particularly honing a 30-second "sales pitch" for themselves;
  • Study skills;
  • Self-presentation;
  • Time management;
  • Ways for students to fund their education; and
  • Writing personal statements.

Tour co-founder Alden Landry, an ED physician and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said he hopes the visits will help students who might otherwise get lost in the process.

"There's something to be said for meeting students where they are," Landry said. "These are students who are often overlooked."

Tour members also make a point to reach out to black men. Tour organizers have noticed that audiences at the events include more women than men. For instance, at a recent event at Hampton University, there were about 20 women for every man.

Joseph Wright, a professor and chair of pediatrics at Howard University College of Medicine, said, "The gender gap is evident early on," suggesting that programs should start reaching black boys in middle school, if not sooner (Weintraub, STAT News, 2/23).

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