Minority groups will comprise a majority of the U.S. population by 2044, yet less than 10% of physicians are racial or ethnic minorities. One remaining barrier to boosting minority participation in medicine is the standardized MCAT test, says Inginia Genao, M.D., the author of a recent paper published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
The MCAT is often used as a screening tool for medical school admissions. Yet students from underrepresented minority groups have not historically performed well on standardized tests. In her analysis, Genao describes a legal standard known as “disparate impact” as a reason for reconsidering the MCAT in medical school admissions. While this standard does not apply specifically to education, it posits that a test can be discarded if it has disparate impact on the basis of race.
As an alternative, Genao proposes a different approach that eliminates the MCAT and assesses the entire applicant, including student background, barriers they’ve overcome, commitment to medicine, and communications skills, among other factors. She points to medical school programs that have applied more holistic approaches to admissions without seeing a decline in student performance. She also underscores the fact that patients are both more satisfied and have better outcomes when the provider and patient share an identity.
Genao is graduate medical education director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and associate chair for diversity and inclusion in the Department of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. Read her paper in Annals of Internal Medicine.