Diversity in Medical School Admissions
Last Updated August 24, 2023
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 racial or ethnic background in the higher education admissions process. The lower courts in both cases had upheld the schools’ processes. The Supreme Court has reversed the lower courts’ decisions in the Harvard and UNC cases.
The AAMC has issued the following statement in response to the court's decision:
The AAMC filed an amicus brief urging the court to refrain from a broad prohibition on awareness of an applicant’s race, which for many applicants is a significant part of their personal story. Moreover, any action that comes with the risk of decreasing diversity in the health professions and limiting the ability to address existing and projected physician workforce shortages is contrary to improving our country’s public health.
The AAMC is committed to strengthening the diversity of the medical student body and the physician workforce. These court cases are just one example of the many attacks at the state-, local-, and federal-level against diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across all aspects of education. Supporting racial and ethnic diversity 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, and it 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 will continue to update this page with resources for the academic medicine community.
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Overview of the Cases
- Court decision
- Initial Overview SCOTUS Ruling on Race-Conscious Admissions
- About the U.S. Supreme Court cases and the AAMC’s amicus brief: AAMC Leads Amicus Brief in Support of Consideration of Race in Higher Education Admissions (2022).
- Full amicus brief signed by the AAMC and 44 health professional organizations: AAMC amicus brief: SFFA v. Harvard and UNC (2022).
- The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice jointly released resources to help colleges and universities understand and comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the SFFA cases. (August 2023)
Resources for AAMC Members
- Frequently Asked Questions: What Does the Harvard and UNC Decision Mean for Medical Education? (August 2023)
This FAQ supports medical schools following the June 2023 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases seeking to end the limited consideration of race or ethnicity in college admissions.
- The SCOTUS Decisions on Race-conscious Admissions and Implications for Academic Medicine (July 2023)
In this webinar, the AAMC’s legal counsel and others discuss the impact of the court's decision and the potential implications on efforts to increase diversity in medical and other health professions schools and the future health care and medical research workforce.
- About holistic review and how it is being used in admissions:
- Holistic Considerations for the Admission Cycle
- Foundational publications to guide you through evaluating your holistic admissions process and provide you with key legal and policy foundations:
- Roadmap to Diversity and Educational Excellence: Key Legal and Educational Policy Foundations for Medical Schools, Second Edition (2014).
- Roadmap to Excellence: Key Concepts for Evaluating the Impact of Medical School Holistic Admissions (2013).
- Roadmap to Diversity: Integrating Holistic Review Practices into Medical School Admission Processes (2010).
- Webinar: “Socially Accountable Admissions: Using a Different Lens to Evaluate Medical School Applicants and Promote Workforce Diversity” (2022).
This webinar highlights effective strategies University of California, Davis, School of Medicine has used to increase enrollment of historically underrepresented and excluded students and to achieve institutional community health goals.
- Webinar series and additional resources: “Mitigating Bias in the Admissions Process” (2021).
- Resources from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME):
- Comprehensive resources from the College Board’s Access and Diversity Collaborative
- University of California
- The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking state-level legislation that would prohibit colleges from implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. (2023)
- CNN opinion piece authored by AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Legal Officer Frank R. Trinity, JD: "An ill-advised Supreme Court decision could impact health care in underserved communities" (2023).
- AcademyHealth blog post authored by Atul Grover, MD, PhD, Executive Director of the AAMC Research and Action Institute, and AcademyHealth Board Secretary: "How the SCOTUS Ruling on Race-Conscious Admissions Could Impact Health Services Research" (2023).
- AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer David A. Acosta, MD, sent the following open letter to its member medical schools, teaching hospitals and health systems, and academic societies: DEI: A Strategic Priority for the AAMC and Academic Medicine. (2023)
- STAT News article about University of California Davis School of Medicine: “How one medical school became remarkably diverse — without considering race in admissions” (2023).
- An AAMCNews viewpoint on the effects of eliminating race-conscious admissions: “Why Eliminating Race-Conscious Admissions Will Hurt Medical School Students” (2023).
- STAT News opinion piece authored by Lee Jones, MD, chair-elect of the AAMC Board of Directors: “Exclude Race From Medical School Admissions and Students, Patients, and the Entire Health Care System Lose Out” (2022).
- An AAMCNews article on the District Court decision in SFFA v. Harvard: “The Harvard Admissions Case: 5 Takeaways for Medical Schools” (2019).
- An AAMCNews viewpoint on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine decision to end the practice of considering race in admissions: “Race in Admissions in the Wake of the Texas Tech Resolution” (2019).
Academic Medicine has published several articles about the use of race in admissions:
- “The Not Underrepresented Minorities: Asian Americans, Diversity, and Admissions” (2020).
- “Affirmative Action and Holistic Review in Medical School Admissions: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going” (2019).
- “Race-Neutral Admission Approaches: Challenges and Opportunities for Medical Schools” (2007).
MedEdPORTAL has published a resource on mitigating bias in the admissions process:
Additional scholarship about the use of race in admissions and the importance of diversity in health care:
- JAMA Network Open: “Black Representation in the Primary Care Physician Workforce and Its Association” (2023).
- JAMA Network Open: “US Medical School Admissions Leaders’ Experiences With Barriers to and Advancements in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (2023).
- Annals of Internal Medicine: “Affirmative Action Bans and Enrollment of Students From Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Groups in U.S. Public Medical Schools” (2022).
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: “Nurse Workforce Diversity and Reduced Risk of Severe Adverse Maternal Outcomes” (2022).
- JAMA Network: “Defending Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Undergraduate and Medical School Admission Policies” (2022).
- Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: “Patient-Physician Racial Concordance Associated with Improved Healthcare Use and Lower Healthcare Expenditures in Minority Populations” (2022).
- AMA Journal of Ethics: “What Does It Mean for Medical School Admissions to Be Socially Accountable?” (2021).
- AMA Journal of Ethics: “What Is the Role of Accreditation in Achieving Medical School Diversity?” (2021).
- JAMA Network Open: “Association of Racial/Ethnic and Gender Concordance Between Patients and Physicians With Patient Experience Ratings” (2020).
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Physician-Patient Racial Concordance and Disparities in Birthing Mortality for Newborns” (2020).
- Journal of Infectious Diseases: “The Science and Value of Diversity: Closing the Gaps in Our Understanding of Inclusion and Diversity” (2019)
- American Economic Review: “Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence From Oakland” (2019).