The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), along with 45 health professional and educational organizations, has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the limited consideration of an applicant’s racial or ethnic background or experiences in higher education admissions in the Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admission v. University of North Carolina (UNC) cases before the Court this fall. The Harvard and UNC cases challenge the limited consideration of race and ethnicity in higher education admissions, the constitutionality of which has been upheld by the Supreme Court repeatedly for more than forty years.
While the plaintiffs ask the high court to overrule longstanding Supreme Court precedent, the AAMC supports the current rule of law. The amicus brief focuses on the particular importance of racial and ethnic diversity in the health professions in classrooms, labs, and clinical settings to improve the overall health of our nation.
“Numerous studies have consistently demonstrated health inequities along racial and ethnic lines in nearly every index of human health, and evidence shows that increased racial diversity in the health professions can help close that gap,” said David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO. “The AAMC has long supported the limited consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions where necessary and in support of a medical school’s mission, with deference to each school’s individualized admissions process and expertise.”
Despite laudable advancements in health care and technology, certain racial and ethnic groups continue to, on average, experience strikingly worse health outcomes than others, even when controlling for income, education, lifestyle, and access. Studies have repeatedly shown that racially and ethnically diverse health care teams produce better and more equitable outcomes for patients. Further, physicians who train and work alongside racially or ethnically diverse peers have higher cultural competence. This means doctors are more familiar with the connection between socio-cultural factors and health and are better able to help eliminate socio-cultural barriers to care and avoid stereotypes about patients from different backgrounds. In short, training and working alongside people with diverse backgrounds can increase familiarity with different cultures and challenge assumptions, improving effective patient-physician communication and health outcomes.
The amicus brief emphasizes the ongoing underrepresentation of certain racial and ethnic groups in medicine. If the current law is overturned, a ban on the consideration of race or ethnicity in applications for institutions of higher learning will immediately and dramatically reduce enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities, as demonstrated by longitudinal studies of schools in states with local bans on the consideration of race. A change in the legal framework would result in a decrease in racial and ethnic diversity in the health professions, with ultimate negative impacts to patient care.
So often, an applicant’s racial and ethnic backgrounds are inextricably linked to their identity, experience, and possibly even career choice. All applicants deserve to be able to apply to an institution of higher education in a way that reflects their full personal history.
“Medical schools have a long history of considering more than an applicant’s GPA and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score, and in making admissions decisions in recognition of the broader set of competencies that are required to practice medicine,” said Geoffrey Young, PhD, AAMC senior director, transforming the health care workforce. “Medical schools – not judges – are in the best position to select the best future physicians.”
The AAMC is grateful and honored to partner in this amicus brief with the following health professional and educational organizations, all of whom have recognized the critical importance of racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion in health care:
The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training
American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American College of Physicians
American College of Psychiatrists
American Dental Education Association
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
American Medical Association
American Medical Student Association
American Pediatric Society
American Psychiatric Association
American Public Health Association
American Society of Hematology
American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry
Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association
Associated Medical Schools of New York
Association of American Indian Physicians
Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions
Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health
Association of University Programs in Health Administration
Association of Women Psychiatrists
Black Psychiatrists of America, Inc.
Council of Medical Specialty Societies
Council on Social Work Education
Latino Medical Student Association
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians
National Hispanic Medical Association
National Medical Association
National Medical Fellowships, Inc.
Philippine Psychiatrists in America
Physician Assistant Education Association
Society for Pediatric Research
Student National Medical Association