Students Attending Racially and Ethnically Diverse Medical Schools Report Being Better Prepared to Care for Patients in Diverse Society
Most medical schools in the U.S. seek ethnic and cultural diversity among their students. One reason for this is to expose all medical students to an array of perspectives, thus better preparing them to meet the needs of the multi-cultural U.S. population. Investigators in this study conducted a web-based survey of more than 20,000 graduating medical students from 118 medical schools in the U.S. to determine whether racial and ethnic diversity within medical schools is associated with diversity-related outcomes among students. Specifically, they examined if it makes a difference in whether students feel prepared to care for diverse patient populations, in their attitudes about access to health care, and plans to care for patients in areas that are traditionally underserved by the health care system. Results show that white students who attend racially diverse medical schools report feeling better prepared than students at less diverse schools to care for racial and ethnic minority patients. They also are more likely to endorse access to adequate health care as a right. However, investigators found no association between the diversity of a medical school and whether white students intended to provide care in underserved areas. These results can help guide medical schools in shaping policies for recruiting, admitting and retaining under-represented minority students as one component of achieving diversity in order to fulfill their educational missions.
Saha S, Guiton G, Wimmers P, and Wilkerson L. Student body racial and ethnic composition and diversity-related outcomes in U.S. medical schools. JAMA September 10 2008;300(10):1135-45.
Dr. Saha was supported by an HSR&D Advanced Research Career Development Award and is part of the Portland VAMC.