Minority enrollment up at University of Michigan Medical School
■ A U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action and focused recruiting efforts are credited.
By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Feb. 28, 2005
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Enrollment of underrepresented minorities at the University of Michigan Medical School has jumped from 12% in 2003 to 21% in 2004.
That's a direct result, some suggest, of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the use of race as one of several criteria for admissions at the University of Michigan's law school.
Nationally, minorities considered underrepresented, such as blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and mainland Puerto Ricans, saw only a small uptick in representation. According to data gleaned from the Assn. of American Medical Colleges and calculated by AMNews, enrollment of such students was 9.3% in 2002 and 2003, creeping to 9.8% in 2004.
The AAMC no longer defines underrepresented minorities as a group but provides statistics by ethnic and racial categories. The AAMC reported black enrollment in medical school increased 2.5% from 2003 to 2004, while the number of Hispanics starting medical school was up almost 8% for the same period.
"The fear of Grutter was much worse than the reality of Grutter," as admissions committees hesitated to weigh race too heavily as they waited for the case to be decided, for fear of being sued, said Robert Jones, PhD, AAMC vice president for medical school services and studies.
American Medical Association policy supports the need to enhance the presence of underrepresented minorities in medical school and the physician work force, as a means to ultimately improve care and access for underserved minorities. The AMA also has led and participated in various programs to encourage minorities to go to medical school.
Medical schools most likely to be affected by Grutter include those in Texas, which had to abandon race-conscious admissions after a 1996 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Hopwood v. University of Texas School of Law outlawed the practice at all public and private schools in the state.
The University of Texas was the first to announce changes in its medical schools' admissions policies. Other schools have followed but have yet to enroll their first classes since the Grutter decision.
Enrollment of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans at all five of the UT medical programs was 22% in 2003 and 21% in 2004.
Schools in California, Florida and Washington also dropped race from their admissions criteria in the late 1990s, but because the schools' actions were mandated by their state legislatures, their policies need not be affected by the Grutter decision.
David Gordon, MD, associate dean for diversity and career development at the University of Michigan Medical School, said the school's surge in minority enrollment also could be due to refocused recruiting efforts.
"We've done a number of things over the past couple of years that have helped us a lot," he said.
The school now contacts all minority students who pass the Medical College Admission Test at a certain level and invites them to apply to the University of Michigan. It has also begun to recruit directly from historically black colleges and campuses with a large Latino population.
The Grutter decision allows Michigan, as well as other medical schools, to consider the race of an applicant among other criteria such as academic achievement, socioeconomic status and commitment to medicine.
"A lot of people have the misconception that the University of Michigan only takes Michigan residents," Dr. Gordon said. Half its class comes from out of state.
Students such as Mediget Teshome, a third-year medical student at Michigan and an active member of the school's Black Medical Assn., also have a big impact on recruiting efforts, Dr. Gordon said. "Our minority students are our best recruiters."
Teshome has helped host minority applicants during weekend visits.
"We try to get together with a larger group when they're in, so they can ask questions and we can also show the community that we have," she said.
"I love going to school here," Teshome said. "Being a student of color, we're well-supported and valued."
She is looking forward to seeing the number of minorities on campus grow. "It really does help to make it feel like more of a home here," she said. "It's nice to have a large and active [minority] community."