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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181901620
Letters to the Editor

Underrepresented Minorities and the Health Professions Pipeline

Barr, Donald A. MD, PhD; Gonzalez, Maria Elena MA; Wanat, Stanley F. PhD

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Associate professor, Department of Sociology, Building 120, Stanford University, Stanford, California; (barr@stanford.edu). (Barr)

Doctoral candidate, Department of Sociology, Stanford University, Stanford, California. (Gonzalez)

Research associate, Department of Sociology, Stanford University, Stanford, California. (Wanat)

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In Reply:

We concur with Cregler’s comments about the need for new types of interventions that colleges and universities can use to stem the loss of URM students who enter college with interest in careers as physicians yet never apply to medical school. In Thurmond and Cregler’s survey of URM students who had attended a summer enrichment program as high school students, gone on to college, yet subsequently lost interest in medical careers, a “feeling of inadequate preparation in science (chemistry most frequently cited)” was often mentioned by these students as a reason for their change in career plans.

The points made by Boateng and Thomas are also well taken. Carline and colleagues1 and Patterson and Carline2 have described the many efforts at providing precollege enrichment to URM students to enhance their participation in health professions careers. It is important that these programs continue. However, it is also of crucial importance that those qualified URM students who enter college with aspirations to become physicians not lose those aspirations in response to what may be an outmoded pedagogy of premedical education.

What type of intervention is most appropriate to address the adverse impact that early experiences in the traditional premedical sciences have on the hopes of large numbers of students, many of them from URM groups? We believe the types of interventions recently described by Dienstag may be appropriate, in which he called for a fundamental reorientation and refocusing of the premedical curriculum, to one that provides, “greater efficiency and a tighter focus on science that ‘matters’ to medicine.”3

Donald A. Barr, MD, PhD

Associate professor, Department of Sociology, Building 120, Stanford University, Stanford, California; (barr@stanford.edu).

Maria Elena Gonzalez, MA

Doctoral candidate, Department of Sociology, Stanford University, Stanford, California.

Stanley F. Wanat, PhD

Research associate, Department of Sociology, Stanford University, Stanford, California.

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References

1Carline JD, Patterson DG, Davis LA, Irby DM. Precollege enrichment programs intended to increase the representation of minorities in medicine. Acad Med. 1998;73:288–298.

2Patterson DG, Carline JD. Promoting minority access to health careers through health profession–public school partnerships: A review of the literature. Acad Med. 2006;81(6 suppl):S5–S10.

3Dienstag JL. Relevance and rigor in premedical education. N Engl J Med. 2008;359:221–224.

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges

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