GW’s medical school, the most selective in the country, is taking steps to enroll more minority students this year, in part by giving less weight to applicants’ GPA and test scores.
The School of Medicine and Health Sciences already fields more applications from black and Latino students than nearly every school in the country, according to the most recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Still, minority students made up less than one-third of the school’s student body last year – a rate that newly hired head of diversity, Yolanda Haywood, said she hopes to change.
Haywood, the school’s first associate dean for diversity, inclusion and student affairs, was hired last month as the first to officially oversee the school’s efforts to increase diversity – a major goal of Dean Jeffrey Akman.
She said as the school tries to attract students from different backgrounds, administrators are not striving for a specific target. Among her responsibilities: recruiting students from underrepresented groups and expanding support programs to help during the daunting application process.
“There are no ‘quotas or numbers’ associated with this initiative. The whole point is to create a medical workforce that can address the needs of their patients – which is becoming increasingly more diverse,” Haywood, an alumna, said in an email.
Students who train in diverse environments are better prepared in their research and practices, according to a 2008 study by the University of California’s Higher Education Research Institute.
The move should also help shore up GW’s image for accreditors. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education has issued more sanctions in recent years, with some colleges failing to meet diversity standards in their student bodies and faculty.
GW’s medical school was put on probation from 2008 to 2010 because of inadequate administrative processes and curriculum.
Haywood added that GW students should prepare to treat patients in D.C., where African Americans make up nearly half the population.
“By virtue of D.C. having a multi-cultural population, it’s always been a priority that we maintain a diverse community,” she said.
About 14 percent of GW medical school students identified as black or Hispanic last year, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. That’s about on par with the rate from 10 years ago.
Nearly one-fifth of GW’s medical students were Asian last year, which puts GW at No. 19 nationwide for the largest population of Asian students.
Haywood, who is also an associate professor of emergency medicine, said she’ll draw on her previous experience running a program that brought local minority and disadvantaged high school graduates to GW’s campus for a month-long summer program about jobs in the health field. The Howard University graduate previously served as the assistant dean for curricular and student affairs.
She will also help steer faculty searches to continue the school’s trend toward hiring more diverse staff members. The number of white faculty members has decreased since 2007.
At the University-level, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed has helped ensure that search committees are considering diverse candidates.
But increasing diversity among tenured and tenure-track faculty is a slow process, Reed said. While more minority students are earning doctoral degrees in their fields than ever before, many in that group are still years away from qualifying for tenured faculty positions.
Henry Sondheimer, who directs education projects at the Association of American Medical Colleges, has long pushed medical schools to embrace holistic review to increase schools’ diversity.
He said there’s little chance that choosing more diverse applicants will affect the quality of that class because “the applicant pool is so strong right now,” and the competition is growing more fierce each year.
-Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report
This article appeared in the September 3, 2013 issue of the Hatchet.