Medical School ups diversity

Though some are critical of the school’s makeup, this year it set a record for students of color.

Jessie Bekker

The University of Minnesota Medical School enrolled a record number of first-year students of color this academic year.

About one-third of the school’s 170 first-year students are from multicultural backgrounds — a statistic the school gathered by asking applicants to self-identify. Despite the school’s success with recruiting students of color, some students say there is still room for added diversity among enrollees.

Mary Tate, director of the Medical School’s Minority Affairs and Diversity office, said the school hasn’t changed its recruitment methods, but instead has put more emphasis on attracting students of color.

“I think one of the things that’s in place is that they do feel a sense of community from this school,” she said.

The school’s recruitment efforts include a pilot program that connects high school students in need of mentoring with Medical School students, Tate said.

In the program, Medical School students spend four years mentoring ninth-grade students of color at Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul, Tate said. The Medical School hopes that with the pilot program, the students in the academy consider attending the University for undergraduate education, and later for medical school.

Julen Harris, a second-year medical student, said the school’s increased diversity was part of the reason she decided to attend.

She said although the Medical School is a welcoming place for students of color, she thinks officials could do more to attract those types of students.

“The increase in numbers [makes me] hopeful,” Harris said. “I think it’s a really positive thing.”

Tate said students who choose not to attend the University’s Medical School receive a questionnaire asking them why they made that decision. Most students answer that they wouldn’t receive enough financial aid to afford the school or that it lacks diversity, she said.

The number of multicultural first-year students in the Medical School has been steadily rising for the past four years.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, 35 of the 170 students admitted each year came from multicultural backgrounds.

Candidates are required to sign a statement promising accuracy in their application, said the Medical School’s associate dean of admissions Dimple Patel.

President of the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association Dane Verret said the Medical School isn’t doing enough to help students of color feel like they are a part of the school’s community.

“It’s good to increase diversity,” he said. “But if the institution doesn’t recognize that it’s about more than a numbers game, then we’re going to put a lot of students that we’re recruiting into unnecessary stress.”

But Patel said the  Medical School uses a recruitment process based on a broad message of inclusion.

“When it comes to recruiting students to become pre-meds and then subsequently apply to the medical school, there isn’t ‘one shoe fits all,’” she said.