Report Claims Declining Numbers of Black Males in Medical School Due to Racial Inequalities

Lauren Silverman/KERA

A recent publication states that a reported drop in the number of black males in medical school is due to “unequal” educational opportunities and other racial disparities.

The report, titled Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine, is published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and asserts that there were fewer black men in medical schools in 2014 than in 1978. The study – based on interviews with 11 black premedical students, physicians, researchers, and leaders – identified several major themes around why the racial disparity supposedly exists:

  • Unequal K-12 educational opportunities
  • Absence of mentors or role models in medicine
  • Public perceptions of black men
  • Career attractiveness
  • Lack of financial resources

In introducing the report, Marc Nivet, AAMC chief diversity officer, writes:

In the middle of these challenging times is an equally vexing problem, in my opinion, facing all of medicine: the lack of black males applying to and entering the field of medicine. While the demographics of the nation are rapidly changing and there is a growing appreciation for diversity and inclusion as drivers of excellence in medicine, one major demographic group—black males—has reversed its progress in entering medical school…No other minority group has experienced such declines. The inability to find, engage, and develop candidates for careers in medicine from all members of our society limits our ability to improve health care for all.

However, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS) and editor of Pioneer Institute’s Drilling Through the Core: Why Common Core Is Bad for American Education, tells Breitbart News that, in reviewing the report, the AAMC is somewhat deceptive in its claim of a significant problem.

“The drop in the number of black male medical school applicants from 1978 to 2014 was a total of 73 – a five percent decline,” Wood said. “The drop in the number of black males who actually enroll in medical school for this period was 25, which is a 4.9 percent decline. On this basis, I would say that the AAMC is emphasizing a small decline as though it were a major decline.”

As Wood observes, the report also notes, “Recent workforce projections estimate a shortage of 45,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025,” shortages that it says will lead to “health care disparities” among “racial and ethnic minorities, individuals living in poverty, and LGBT communities.”

He responds:

The introduction to the report doesn’t rest only on these numerical claims. It includes the standard argument that “diversity” brings all kinds of other benefits, including “civic engagement,” “ease with managing diversity,” “recognition of racism,” “exposure to different pedagogical approaches,” and “cognitive complexity.” These are instances of special pleading, i.e. making dubious claims as though they are settled facts. The “cognitive complexity” that arises from pretending something that is false is actually true is probably an intellectual attainment that does little to enhance medical training. Pretending that students admitted to medical school at a lower standard of academic performance will become physicians who will practice at the same level of competence of students admitted at a higher standard of academic performance is an instance of this kind of “cognitive complexity.” And so is the whole pretense that the race of medical school applicants has any meaningful bearing on the quality of the physician “work force.”

Wood further notes why the report focuses on black males.

“The report cites 2010 figures that show male African-Americans received 51,969 STEM degrees that year, but African-American females received 100,435 degrees,” he observes. “So roughly twice as many black women as men finished college with degrees in the fields that usually serve as prerequisites for medical school.”

Stanford University mathematics professor Dr. James Milgram also picked up on the gender difference in the data given in the report. He tells Breitbart News:

They try to attribute this deplorable situation to a lack of role models, but there are a number of other things going on already in K-12 that almost certainly are playing at least as significant a role. Chief among them is the deliberate and well known “war on boys” that has increased the percentages of female college and university students to something around 58 – 60 percent of our current college classes. Across the board it follows that education policies for K-12 are having the effect of diverting boys from matriculating or succeeding at the university level.

To this point, Wood observes that a chart in the report showing the racial composition of medical school matriculants from 1978-2014 actually indicates that the number of African-Americans in medical school for this period actually rose 32 percent – from 933-1,227.

“This shows that what happened in the period is that more black women have gone to medical school, while slightly fewer black men have,” Wood says. “In 2014, 542 black males enrolled in medical school while 685 black females enrolled.”

“If you buy the dubious (and de facto segregationist) argument that patients are best served by physicians of the same race, the only thing that has changed is that there are nearly a third more African-American students in medical school than there were in 1978,” he adds. “As a proportion of all medical school students, African Americans in 2014 made up 7.2 percent. And there was one black enrollee for every 11.5 white enrollees.”

Milgram has persistently warned as well that, with the introduction of the Common Core standards in public schools, unless U.S. students are able to afford exclusive private high school educations that are more challenging, they will be disadvantaged.

Common Core does not provide standards for calculus and other higher-level math courses that must be taken in high school to prepare students – regardless of their race – for STEM major coursework that most premed students – of any race – would need to take prior to applying to medical school.

“[F]rom my perspective, Common Core does not come close to the rhetoric that surrounds it,” Milgram has noted. “It doesn’t even begin to approach the issues that it was supposedly designed to attack.”

And the major issue Common Core was sold to states as attacking was education inequality and the achievement gap between white students and minority students.

Ultimately, Wood sees the report’s focus on racial identity as inconsequential.

“My view is that all Americans, of every race, would be better off if we recruited to medical school on the basis of proven talent, proven work ethic, and proven commitment to the hard work of becoming a physician,” he says. “Race is irrelevant. In this case, the authors of the report have to go several extra steps to create the appearance of a problem out of slight statistical disparities.”


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