Research Program Coordinator
Héctor Javier Preciado
Health Policy Director
UC Medical School Diversity Failing to Keep up with California’s Diversity
Berkeley, California. The Greenlining Institute, a multiethnic research and advocacy institute, has released a report on the diversity of the University of California’s medical student body. Among the findings is the fact that although African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans make up more than 40% of the population of California, they comprise less than 20% of UC medical students.
The Greenlining report analyzes official enrollment data from the University of California Office of the President, which shows the number of applicants, accepted students, and enrollees at each of the five UC medical school campuses of each race, from 2001-2007.
One of the most interesting findings is that the representation of each race studied remains very similar from the pool of students who apply to each school, to the proportion that gets accepted into the programs, to the proportion that enrolls. For example, 9.6% of the students who applied to the class of 2007 at the five UC medical school campuses were Latino, and 14% of those who were accepted and enrolled in a UC medical school were also Latino. Four percent of the applicants were African American, and 4.6% of the enrollees were African American. For Native Americans, the percentages were 0.2% and 0.3% for applicants and enrollees, respectively. The report says that this is an indication that more needs to be done to increase the number of minority students who apply to medical school.
While underrepresented minority enrollment has been increasing steadily since 2001, the researchers caution that while this is good news, the issue of the representation gap still persists. The disparity between the representation of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans in the UC medical student body and their representation at UC medical schools is growing, because their rate of increase in the population outstrips their increase in medical school enrollment. For example, for every 1 African American who enrolls at a UC medical school each year, 777 African Americans are added to California’s population. For every 1 Latino medical student, there are 3,276 Latinos added to the population. In contrast, for every 1 Asian American student, 457 Asian Americans are added to California’s population.
Among the recommendations in the report is that UC medical schools should support more programs that help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain the necessary academic preparation to enter medical school, as well as conduct more outreach to schools in poorer districts.
The report shows that underrepresented minority enrollment at the UC medical schools reached its peak around 1992, then plummeted to 40% of the peak in the wake of Proposition 209. Increased outreach and support from the UC for high school and college enrichment programs helped turn around the numbers after 2001. After the steep declines of the 1990s, African American enrollment is now up 20% from 2001 to 2007 and Latino enrollment is up 72.5% in the same period. Native American enrollment, however, continues to decline. Before Proposition 209 passed in 1996, the UC medical schools collectively matriculated only 4 Native American students out of a total student body of over 600. After 1996, the UC averaged only 2 Native American students per year.
The Greenlining Institute references studies that show that minority doctors are much more likely to practice in underserved communities, and that the quality of medical care is improved when both doctor and patient speak the same language and share cultural ties. The report also provides statistics that show that poor minority groups are more likely to require health services, thereby creating an urgent need for quality, culturally competent health care.
Greenlining and minority community leaders are looking forward to working with the University of California to ensure that they are working to increase the diversity of their student body.