Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
We read with interest Dr. Reginald Baugh’s1 recent article entitled “I Am an African American: Distinguishing Between African American and African Applicants in Medical School Admissions Matters.” Dr. Baugh argues that admissions committees should differentiate between African Americans born in the United States and those who immigrated to the United States or are the offspring of immigrants, because the two groups may have different cultures, values, and different conceptions about U.S. racism. Specifically, he expresses concern that African Americans who are descendants of U.S. slavery may be more likely than African/Caribbean immigrants to practice in underserved communities. To our knowledge, there is no evidence to support this contention. We provide evidence that, in at least one cohort of African American physicians, there were no significant differences in their likelihood to provide substantial health care for underserved populations based on their or their parents’ nation of origin.
Unpublished data from McDougle and colleagues’2 study of postbaccalaureate program graduates from 10 medical schools include survey responses from 100 physicians who self-identify as black. Eighty of these physicians indicated that both parents were born in the United States, and 20 reported that both parents were born outside the United States. Survey questions were (1) Do you practice in a Federally Designated Underserved Area? (2) Do you practice in a setting where 40% or more of patients are indigent? (3) Do you currently practice in a location that performs significant services to the underserved? Comparing US-born to foreign-born black physicians, the proportion of “yes” answers to the questions [(1) 40% vs. 25%; (2) 53% vs. 65%; (3) 36% vs. 40%; all P > .05] did not differ significantly.
Thus, in this regard, Dr. Baugh’s commentary should not be interpreted as justification to limit access to medical school for qualified students who are African or Caribbean immigrants. In the interest of diversifying the medical profession as one strategy to reduce racial health care disparities and promoting unity among underrepresented minority physicians, we advocate focusing on how blacks are similar, rather than how they differ.
Quinn Capers IV, MD
Associate dean for admissions and associate professor of medicine (cardiovascular medicine), Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darrell M. Gray II, MD, MPH
Assistant professor of medicine (gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition), Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio.
Leon McDougle, MD, MPH
Associate dean for diversity and inclusion and professor of family medicine, Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio.
1. Baugh RF. I am an African American: Distinguishing between African American and African applicants in medical school admissions matters. Acad Med. 2018;93:1281–1285.
2. McDougle L, Way DP, Lee WK, et al. A national long-term outcomes evaluation of U.S. premedical postbaccalaureate programs designed to promote health care access and workforce diversity. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2015;26:631–647.