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The Minority Student Voice at One Medical School: Lessons for All?

Dickins, Kirsten AM; Levinson, Dana MPH; Smith, Sandy G. PhD; Humphrey, Holly J. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182769513
Underrepresented Minorities

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.

Ms. Dickins is a graduate student, Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut.

Ms. Levinson is assistant dean for medical education, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Smith is a former senior education specialist, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Humphrey is professor of medicine and dean for medical education, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

First published online November 16, 2012

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Humphrey, Biological Sciences Learning Center, Suite 104, 924 East 57th St., Chicago, IL 60637; telephone: (773) 834-1954; fax: (773) 702-8961; e-mail:

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges