Purpose: Although the minority population of the United States is projected to increase, the number of minority students in medical schools remains stagnant. The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine (PSOM) matriculates students underrepresented in medicine (URM) above the national average. To identify potential strategies through which medical schools can support the success of URM medical students, interviews with URM students/graduates were conducted.
Method: Students/recent graduates (within six years) who participated in this study self-identified as URMs in medicine and were selected for participation using random quota sampling. Participants completed a semistructured, qualitative interview in 2009–2010 about their experiences at PSOM. Key themes were identified and independently analyzed by investigators to ensure intercoder agreement.
Results: Participants identified five facets of their medical school experiences that either facilitated or hindered their academic success. Facilitators of support clustered in three categories: the collaborative learning climate at PSOM, the required health care disparities course, and student body diversity. Inhibitors of support clustered in two categories: insufficiently diverse faculty; and expectations—from self and others—to fulfill additional responsibilities, or carry a disproportionate burden.
Conclusions: Intentional cultivation of a collaborative learning climate, formal inclusion of health care disparities curriculum, and commitment to fostering student body diversity are three routes by which PSOM has supported URM students. Additionally, recognizing the importance of building a diverse faculty and extending efforts to decrease the disproportionate burden and stereotype threat felt by URM students are institutional imperatives.