The Importance of the Premedical Experience in Diversifying the Health Care Workforce

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Abstract

In light of national calls for increased diversity in medicine, it is critical for academic medicine to remain actively engaged in the conversation about the value of diversity in higher education, specifically for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Too often, the undergraduate premedical experience is excluded from conversations about diversity in medicine. The undergraduate premedical experience, however, is a critical junction for many students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine, especially for those who enter college underprepared for the academic rigor of the premedical experience.

In this Commentary, the authors describe the data that currently exist about the premedical experience for underrepresented students. They posit that academic medicine needs to be involved in promoting success for undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds, especially given the known societal and educational benefits of a diverse physician workforce. The authors reference the University of Michigan Health Sciences Scholars Program (HSSP) as an example of a partnership between the medical school and the undergraduate campus. HSSP uses higher education best practices known to promote success for underprepared college students. Innovative collaborations between academic medicine and higher education such as HSSP have the potential to increase the diversity of students who are able to matriculate into the health professions. Finally, the authors review issues related to the programming needed to support success for these students.

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