Medical School Admissions: An LGBTQ Perspective

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I recall my trembling hands as I was typing the word “gay” on my personal statement. The irony was that I wanted to be proud of my identity, struggles, and contribution to my community, yet I could still feel the fear lingering inside me. Unlike my experience of “coming out” as a young adult, the decision of being “out” on my medical school application felt a million times harder. I knew once that application was submitted, I was essentially “out” to dozens, if not hundreds, of strangers across the nation. These were strangers I had never met and who only knew me through what I included on my application, and yet they could decide my future as an aspiring doctor. Words on that application became my reality. My biggest worry was that the strangers’ own perceived reality and associated stereotypes would blanket my true potential and self, negatively impacting my chances of being accepted to medical school. For a moment, I felt that I was put back in the proverbial closet that I had spent years of my life breaking down.
The unfortunate thing is that I was quite certain that I was not the only one, but there are not any resources to turn to for advice or guidance. Every year, tens of thousands of medical school hopefuls submit their application through the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC’s) American Medical College Application Service, and many who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) may have to go through the same predicament that I did. Currently, the AAMC does not consider LGBTQ applicants as underrepresented in medicine (UIM). The eligibility to identify as UIM does not influence admission decisions, but it does serve to help medical schools to identify students from communities that are economically disadvantaged or who are underrepresented minorities.1 However, the Web site does not offer any explanation as to why LGBTQ identity has not been included in the definition of UIM by the AAMC.
It is time to change how UIM is defined to recognize the hidden barriers that LGBTQ applicants have to face to gain admission to medical school. It is through change that we can ensure allocation of resources in support of future LGBTQ applicants throughout the medical school application process. More importantly, such change will allow future LGBTQ applicants to serve our community openly and proudly without the fear of discrimination.
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