Written by Joanna Hughes

In 2009, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) introduced two new diversity accreditation standards calling for US medical schools “to engage in systematic efforts to attract and retain students from diverse background and develop programs, such as pipeline and academic enrichment programs, to broaden diversity among qualified applicants.” Nearly 10 years later, has progress been made? According to newly published research in JAMA, yes! Here’s a closer look at the findings, as reported by NBC News.

New Standards, Better Outcomes

It’s not news that disparities have long existed regarding women and minorities in the physician workforce. The LCME standards were put into place in an attempt to level the playing field. Until now, though, no one had looked at whether they were working. Lead researcher Dowin Boatright said, “I knew there were accreditation standards for medical school, but I wasn’t aware of what those standards entailed.”

So Boatright and his team set out to evaluate the standards’ impact by analyzing the data. Their findings were promising: Since the introduction of the diversity standards, the percentages of women and minority medical school matriculants have all experienced increased.

The Future (Physician) Is Female?

While female, black, and Hispanic all increased their representation in medical school, growth for women was particularly noteworthy. Before the standards were implemented, the proportion of women going to medical school was dropping by 0.29 percent a year. Between 2012 to 2017, however, this grew to 0.85 percent.

The pattern was consistent, albeit less significant, for black and Hispanics, with the former shifting from an annual drop of 0.09 percent to a spike of 0.27 percent and the latter increasing an annual 0.18 percent increase to a 0.35 percent increase.

Boatright also points to the value of this analysis for additional corrective action. "The next element is to look at the programs that have produced a more diverse class and to look at their practices and gold standards of recruitment. Other institutions can use them as a model to promote diversity,” he said.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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