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Letters to the Editor

Improving Access to Medical Education for Underrepresented and Low-Income Students

Ahmad, Hasan S.1; Ahmed, Fahad2; Hitchner, Michaela K.3; Li, Eric H.4; Williams, Cheyenne5

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004144
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To the Editor:

A growing body of literature reports improved patient outcomes with more diverse health care teams. 1 However, medical school matriculants from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds have grown by less than 2% since 1980, a rate disproportionate to their growth in the U.S. population and to the 47% overall increase in medical school applications. 2 Similarly, only 5% of students hail from the lowest quintile of household income. 3

Barrier analyses show that insufficient information about health careers and the lack of close mentors in health care are obstacles to students pursuing health careers. 4 To address these gaps in information and social capital, we and other students attending the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania designed The UpLIFT Guide to Medical School Admissions, 5 a free, comprehensive guide that encompasses the entire medical school application process, including (1) preparing an application, (2) applying and interviewing, and (3) navigating financial aid and school selection processes.

The guide provides targeted support to underrepresented, low-income, and first-time students, hence the name UpLIFT. For example, initial users have noted that our guide addresses topics such as how to frame disadvantaged identities, which is particularly important in their applications. To our knowledge, this is the first such free and comprehensive resource that specifically aims to improve access to and help reduce disparities within medical education.

The guide was launched online on August 27, 2020. Over 13 weeks, the resource has been viewed 7,223 times by 3,373 unique users at 34 undergraduate institutions. Future possibilities for this guide include its use as an official premedical mentorship text for peer premedical mentorship programs and its adaptation to multiple companion media platforms, such as video and podcasts.

We hope this guide—and other similar resources such as pipeline programs and targeted mentorship groups—can equip underrepresented students to matriculate to medical school and enter the physician workforce. We urge other medical students and medical schools to pioneer similar initiatives that engage and help uplift medical school applicants and students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds.


1. Romero R, Miotto K, Casillas A, Sanford J. Understanding the experiences of first-generation medical students: Implications for a diverse physician workforce. Acad Psychiatry. 2020; 44:467–470
2. Lett LA, Murdock HM, Orji WU, Aysola J, Sebro R. Trends in racial/ethnic representation among US medical students. JAMA Netw Open. 2019; 2:e1910490
3. Association of American Medical Colleges.. An updated look at the economic diversity of U.S. medical students. AAMC Analysis in Brief. 2018; 18:1–3 Accessed April 27, 2021
4. Cassidy K, Foster T, Moody E, Turner J, Tejpar S. Perceptions of medical school among high school students in southwestern Ontario. Can J Rural Med. 2013; 18:7–12
5. UpLIFT—Helping students from all backgrounds successfully apply to medical school. Published 2020 Accessed April 27, 2021
Copyright © 2021 by the Association of American Medical Colleges