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Diversity in Medical School Admissions

Last Updated June 14, 2024

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.

AAMC member institutions with questions or comments can contact holisticreview@aamc.org

For media inquiries, please contact press@aamc.org.

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:

Read more about what the Supreme Court’s decision could mean for medical education:

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:  

Read more about strategies to build a diverse medical school class:

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:

Read more about the importance of building a diverse workforce for patients:

Laws and Legislative Activity Regarding DEI

Apart from court decisions, medical schools may operate in states which have passed or are considering laws that could impact the selection, support, or instruction of students, residents, or faculty. The AAMC continues to monitor these developments.