To the Editor:
Academic Medicine recently published a report by Barr and colleagues on a longitudinal study of premed undergraduates at Stanford University.1 The authors determined that a negative experience with a chemistry class was the most common factor in underrepresented minorities’ (URMs’) early decline in interest in premed. This is a well-designed study and an important contribution to the medical education literature.
Barr and colleagues further point out, correctly, that there have been few data published on why students leave premedical studies.1,2 One source of such data is our report, previously published in this journal, on why students drop out of the pipeline to health professions careers3 (not cited as a reference in the later report). Barr and colleagues’ data support and confirm our previous observations.
The three reports mentioned above are extremely important, as they point out possible explanations and interventions that could be useful to other institutions attempting to maintain and/or increase the number of URMs, as called for by the Association of American Medical Colleges. As most medical schools continue to support the goals of attracting and maintaining a diverse student population, increasing the participation of minorities in the pipeline is critical. Even maintaining the current percentage of URMs is now challenging in view of the increasing class sizes in most institutions and the number of new medical schools.
Louis L. Cregler, MD
Professor, Department of Community Health and Social Medicine, City University of New York, New York, New York; ([email protected]).
1Barr DA, Gonzalea ME, Wanat SF. The leaky pipeline: Factors associated with early decline in interest in premedical studies among underrepresented minority undergraduate students. Acad Med. 2008;83:503–511.
2Lovecchio K, Dundes L. Premed survival: Understanding the culling process in premedical undergraduate education. Acad Med. 2002;77:719–724.
3Thurmond VB, Cregler LL. Why students drop out of the pipeline to health professions careers: A follow-up of gifted minority high school students. Acad Med. 1999;74:448–451.