Diversity in Medical School Admissions
Last Updated November 2, 2023
The AAMC defines diversity broadly to include all aspects of human differences including but not limited to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography (including rural and highly rural areas), disability, and age.
Diverse perspectives and backgrounds in the health professions — spanning classrooms, labs, and clinical settings — enriches the educational experiences of all medical and health professions students and the teaching experiences of faculty. Diversity, including racial and ethnic diversity, is essential to improving the overall health of our nation. In fact, diversity cultivates an innovation mindset, catalyzes creativity and discovery, and enhances complex problem-solving, prediction, and forecasting.
The AAMC, informed by decades of research, recognizes the undeniable benefits of diversity for improving the health of people everywhere. We remain committed to enhancing health professional education, research, and practice by emphasizing critical thinking, innovation, effective communication with all patients, and increased access to patient care for an increasingly diverse population.
In addition, research shows that a diverse and inclusive biomedical research workforce with individuals from historically excluded and underrepresented groups is critical to gathering the range of perspectives needed to identify and solve the complex scientific problems of today and tomorrow.
The AAMC will continue to update this page with resources for the academic medicine community.
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Understanding the U.S. Supreme Court Cases and Decisions
On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled on two cases — Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina — concerning the consideration of an applicant’s race or ethnicity in the higher education admissions process. The lower courts in both cases had upheld the schools’ processes. The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ decisions in both cases.
While the Harvard and UNC decision and recent local anti-DEI legislation have restricted prior means of diversifying the health care workforce, many viable avenues remain to remove obstacles and increase opportunities for people historically underrepresented in medicine. The AAMC remains committed to strengthening the diversity of the medical student body and the physician workforce as we navigate the changing legal landscape. Read more about the Supreme Court’s decision in SFFA v. Harvard and UNC:
- Full Supreme Court decision
- Initial overview of the decision from the AAMC
- Questions and answers about the decision from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice
- U.S. Department of Education Report: Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Opportunity in Higher Education
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Affirmative Action in Higher Education: The Racial Justice Landscape after the SFFA Cases (Sept. 29, 2023)
- Additional resources on the decision from the College Board
Read more about what the Supreme Court’s decision could mean for medical education:
- Frequently Asked Questions: What Does the Harvard and UNC Decision Mean for Medical Education? (last updated Aug. 2023)
- CNN: An ill-advised Supreme Court decision could impact health care in underserved communities (July 25, 2023)
- Academy Health: How the SCOTUS Ruling on Race-Conscious Admissions Could Impact Health Services Research (July 13, 2023)
- AAMC Statement: AAMC Deeply Disappointed By SCOTUS Decision On Race-Conscious Admissions (June 19, 2023)
- AAMCNews: Why Eliminating Race-Conscious Admissions Will Hurt Medical School Students (Jan. 17, 2023)
- JAMA Network: Defending Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Undergraduate and Medical School Admission Policies (Dec. 7, 2022)
- STAT: Exclude Race From Medical School Admissions and Students, Patients, and the Entire Health Care System Lose Out (Nov. 1, 2022)
Holistic Review and Building a Diverse Medical School Class
The AAMC is collaborating with leaders from AAMC-member medical schools to develop free, accessible resources and guidance – including effective race-neutral practices and tools – to support the admissions and broader academic medicine communities.
One such tool is the implementation and expansion of holistic review in admissions. Holistic review refers to mission-aligned admissions or selection processes that take into consideration applicants’ experiences, attributes, and academic metrics as well as the value an applicant would contribute to learning, practice, and teaching. Holistic review allows admissions committees to consider the whole applicant, rather than disproportionately focusing on any one factor.
Read more about implementing a holistic admissions process:
- About Holistic Review, including an overview of the principles of holistic review, additional tools and resources to support its use, strategies from schools that have aligned their admissions process with their mission
- Academic Medicine: SHARPening Residency Selection: Implementing a Systematic Holistic Application Review Process (Sept. 1, 2023)
Read more about strategies to build a diverse medical school class:
- STAT: How one medical school became remarkably diverse — without considering race in admissions (March 7, 2023)
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Affirmative Action Bans and Enrollment of Students From Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Groups in U.S. Public Medical Schools (June 2022)
- AMA Journal of Ethics: What Does It Mean for Medical School Admissions to Be Socially Accountable? (Dec. 2021)
- MedEdPORTAL: Bias Breakers: Continuous Practice for Admissions and Selection Committees (Nov. 15, 2022)
Building a Health Care and Biomedical Research Workforce to Improve the Health of All
The AAMC has a longstanding commitment to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion for over 40 years. The AAMC’s Strategic Plan is focused on doubling down on these efforts by galvanizing the expertise of its member institutions and developing strategic partnerships.
To accelerate discovery and improve health, academic medicine needs equitable and inclusive environments in which all faculty, staff, administrators, and learners feel welcome, safe, and valued. Yet women and members of marginalized groups face systemic problems such as racism, bias, harassment, disrespect, and isolation. The AAMC’s Strategic Action Plan 3 seeks to create more inclusive, equitable environments in medical schools and teaching hospitals so they can better attract and advance a diverse workforce and improve the health of all people.
The AAMC’s Strategic Action Plan 4 endeavors to make the pathway to the health professions more accessible, equitable, attainable, and desirable for underrepresented populations and historically marginalized communities. The AAMC is uniquely positioned to drive this initiative because of its robust repository of aspirant applicant and enrollment data, extensive analysis of trends in the physician workforce, relationships with experts in higher education, health care, and policy, and proven success with facilitating critical and crucial conversations.
An optimal research environment that drives impactful biomedical discovery is one that is supportive, diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The AAMC’s Strategic Action Plan 5 focuses on the needs and opportunities for all people in the biomedical research workforce in furtherance of a more supportive and inclusive environment for science. This includes fostering such an environment for graduate and postdoctoral training. Medical schools and teaching hospitals are already working to develop policies and practices that promote progress in these areas, and together, in collaboration with the AAMC, can have greater momentum and impact.
Learn about and take action on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion using these AAMC resources:
- Action Collaborative for Black Men in Medicine
- Action Collaborative for Black Men In Medicine Strategy Summit Proceedings (2023)
- Creating Action to Eliminate Racism in Medical Education Medical Education Senior Leaders (MESL) Rapid Action Team to Combat Racism in Medical Education (Jan. 2021)
- Reshaping the Journey American Indians and Alaska Natives in Medicine (2018)
- Accessibility, Inclusion, and Action in Medical Education: Lived Experiences of Learners and Physicians with Disabilities (2018)
- Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine (2015)
Read more about the importance of building a diverse workforce for patients:
- AAMC Strategic Action Plan 3: Equip Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems to Become More Inclusive, Equitable Organizations
- AAMC Strategic Action Plan 4: Increase Significantly the Number of Diverse Medical School Applicants and Matriculants
- AAMC Statement: DEI: A Strategic Priority for the AAMC and Academic Medicine (May 22, 2023)
- JAMA Network Open: Black Representation in the Primary Care Physician Workforce and Its Association With Population Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the U.S. (April 14, 2023)
- National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEMM Organizations beyond broadening Participation Consensus Study Report (Feb. 2023)
- Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: Patient-Physician Racial Concordance Associated with Improved Healthcare Use and Lower Healthcare Expenditures in Minority Populations (Jan. 5, 2021)
- JAMA Network Open: Association of Racial/Ethnic and Gender Concordance Between Patients and Physicians With Patient Experience Ratings (Nov. 9, 2020)
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Physician-Patient Racial Concordance and Disparities in Birthing Mortality for Newborns (Aug. 17, 2020)
- Journal of Infectious Diseases: The Science and Value of Diversity: Closing the Gaps in Our Understanding of Inclusion and Diversity (Aug. 19, 2020)
- American Economic Review: Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence From Oakland (Dec. 2019)