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UT Affirmative Action Case Could Change Medical School Demographics

September 24, 2012

This fall, a Supreme Court Case will reignite the affirmative action debate in higher education and could change how students are admitted into university programs in the future.

An article by the American Medical News“Affirmative action: High court may rewrite med school admission policies,” explains that if the case is upheld in Fisher’s favor, it would restrict opportunities for minorities who want to enter the medical field and negatively change the future of our nations’ healthcare.

The Chief Diversity Officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Marc Nivet, EdD, stated:

“It’s really important that our institutions are capable of having the most latitude in making admissions decisions…In this case, if there’s a restriction on the utilization of race and ethnicity as one factor of many, it restricts our ability to look at all areas of an individual’s background. One of the things we know is having a diversified class helps in the education process and helps build culturally competent physicians.”

The AAMC, the American Council on Education, the Obama Administration and more than 25 other health and education organizations have filed amicus briefs, asking the Supreme Court to uphold admission programs that consider race and ethnicity because rather than discriminate, they promote diversity and fair opportunity for all.

The case Fisher v. Texas arose after Abigail Fisher, a white student sued the University of Texas-Austin in 2008 because she was not admitted into the undergraduate program. She claims that she wasn’t admitted solely based on her race.

The university stated that while it aims to meet “a high standard for diversity” in order to educate tomorrow’s world leaders, they do not admit applicants solely on the basis of their race.

In 2008, UT Austin received an estimated 30,000 applications and admitted 81% of  those who placed in the top 10% of each Texas high schools graduating class. Under the institutions Top 10 Percent Plan, Abigail Fisher did not meet this requirement and was therefore considered among the other thousands of applicants where academics, leadership qualities, race, and socioeconomic status were key in admitting students.

Diversity on college campuses is essential to fostering a robust exchange of ideas and improving the quality of education. Higher education institutions have an obligation to prepare students to meet the challenges of a highly global society, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, in a statement.

As of 2011, 7% (3,215) of medical school applicants were black, 8% (3,459) were Hispanic and 20% (8,941) were Asian, the AAMC said. Still, whites accounted for 55% (545,481) of doctors in 2012 and while the number of minority medical school graduates is increasing steadily, the figures are still low compared to the nations diverse population at large, according to the article.

“With the Affordable Care Act bringing millions of previously uninsured patients to doctors’ offices, the need for minority doctors will grow…We have tremendous needs in health care delivery to minority communities, and with the ACA, there will be greater demand for services,” she said. Minorities “are underrepresented in the health professions. Affirmative action is needed due to the disadvantaged education and lack of role models in [many] of their families,” said Elena Rios, MD, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association. Read More…

While Abigail Fisher lost in the district and federal court levels, she appealed to the Supreme Court, and they accepted the case to be heard on October 10th. MCN will provide updates in the weeks to come.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 1, 2012 6:28 am

    There are many complexities associated with affirmative action programs and policies. However, one issue which we continually ignore, as is the case with most government related programs and initiatives, is whether it is effective in addressing past wrongs. Think about this: How many beneficiaries of affirmative action programs have actually shared their good fortune with other members of their particular ethnic group, as opposed to using their increased opportunities and wealth to distance themselves from the masses of minority citizens?

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