Black students enrolling at record pace to medical schools

Morehouse School of Medicine is teaming up with CommonSpirit Health in a 10-year, $100 million partnership to train more Black physicians and work toward health equity for underserved communities

The number of Black students who began medical school this fall in the U.S. rose by 21% from 2020-21, according to new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The nonprofit organization also stated that the 2021 first-year class is larger and more diverse than any that came before it.

“We have never seen such an increase within a short amount of time,” Norma Poll-Hunter, who leads workforce diversity efforts at the Association of Medical Colleges, told GBH News.

Many people believe that there is no single driving force behind the boom. “I don’t think anybody knows why,” said Kevin Holcomb, MD, AAMC reported.

Instead, according to AAMC, admissions leaders believe several factors are fueling the rise of Black medical students. Reasons include COVID-19, social injustices and changes that ease fees and eliminate travel costs associated with applying.

Medical schools were already aware of these barriers, according to Poll-Hunter, but the death of George Floyd and racial justice demonstrations “really called into question this idea of a post-racial society,” GBH News reported.

Joyce Sackey, Tufts’ dean for multicultural affairs and global health, told the news outlet that the recognition is leading to more diversity on campus, saying that “the ongoing racial reckoning has served as inspiration for admissions officers to re-double their diversity efforts.”

“Medical schools are like the Titanic,” Sackey added. “It’s very difficult to move policies and processes, to be honest. But we are a medical school that has declared that we want to work towards becoming an anti-racist institution. This stand may have also signaled to applicants whom we accepted that maybe this is a place that they can make home.”