Diversity Growth Incremental in the Medical Professions

A century after the Flexner Report, minorities still woefully underrepresented and obstacles remain
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- One hundred years after the Flexner Report recommended closing five of the seven African-American medical schools then extant, African-Americans and other minorities remain grossly underrepresented in the medical professions, according to an article in the February issue of Academic Medicine.

Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., of the Sullivan Alliance to Transform America's Health Professions in Washington, D.C., and a colleague reviewed the progress toward health profession diversity since the 1910 Carnegie Foundation Bulletin No. 4 recommendation by Abraham Flexner left only two African-American medical schools open: Howard University School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College. Since then, just two other African-American medical schools have opened, and it was not until 1966 that African-Americans were represented at all U.S. medical schools.

In 1969, the Association of American Medical Colleges launched initiatives that tripled minority enrollment in medical schools to 10 percent by 1974. By 1995, minority enrollment had increased to just 12 percent and to 15.1 percent by 2008, incremental growth that lags well behind the growing proportion of minorities in the U.S. population. Meanwhile, advocates cite economic barriers, a lack of minority mentors, an inhospitable academic climate, and unfair standards as continuing obstacles for minorities.

"Access to a health professions career should be available to all, not only because of issues of equity and social justice but because without such diversity, we as a nation will not benefit from developing the talent, creativity, and potential of the human capital that exist in all segments of our society," the authors write.

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