Lewis Katz School of Medicine’s racial diversity lags behind nation

Medical schools across the United States are struggling to diversify as well, a 2019 study found.

For African Americans, it can be hard to feel motivated to study medicine, said Johanna McMillan, a postbaccalaureate student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. 

“That kind of pressure and the pressure that society puts on you, it’s not something that may be attractive for African Americans thinking about med school,” said McMillan, who identifies as Black and Mexican.

“A lot of us African Americans, we just don’t think that that’s something that’s necessarily possible,” she added.

Black, Hispanic, and American Indian or Alaska Native students are underrepresented at the medical school relative to the U.S. population, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Census Bureau.

The AAMC data shows that in 2018, Black students were underrepresented by 6 percent, Hispanic students by 13 percent, and American, Indian and Alaska students by 1.3 percent at the school.

Nationally, Black, Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native students continue to be underrepresented in medical schools despite the U.S. population becoming more diverse, according to a recent study by Jama Network.

A representative from TUH could not be reached for comment.

Lauren Thompson, a first-year medical student, said that the lack of diversity among medical schools is not just a Temple issue and the medical school is trying to rectify the issue as best they can.

“I’ve seen and talked to other faculty members that are really committed to getting a diverse and representative class, just because they know how important it is for the community in terms of outreach and having different programs that are actually going to impact the community,” said Thompson, who identifies as African American. “There’s always more to be done, but Temple is heading in the right direction.”

Rachael Odusanya, a first-year medical student, said she chose Temple because it was more diverse than other schools she applied to. Though it can be discouraging that the student population is mostly white, the community support helps motivate her, she added. 

“When I’m walking down the street, and the community sees me in my scrubs they’re like, ‘Don’t give up, keep going on,’” said Odusanya, who identifies as African American. “Things like that make me realize that we are making an impact on the patient population and the community.”

Still, Odusanya would like to see the medical school become more diverse in the future, she said. 

“This is a med school. Diversity trickles down,” she said. “But I’m hoping that in the future, maybe 50 percent of the class will be other than white.”

More than half of the student population at the medical school is white, though the proportion of white students has steadily decreased since 2012, according to the AAMC data. The Jama Network study found a similar decrease in the proportion of white students nationally from 2002 to 2017.

In 19140, a zip code where Blacks represent 57.8 percent of the population, they accounted for just 7.4 percent of students at the medical school in 2018. 

McMillan, who grew up in Germantown, said it’s important to tell kids when they’re young that they can be whoever they want to be and show them that it’s possible to go to medical school.

“We don’t have a lot of motivation from the background we come from,” she said. “We might not have the education that says, ‘Hey, you can actually do this.’”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to the AAMC as the American Association of Medical Colleges. The correct title is Association of American Medical Colleges.

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