Should Med Schools lower MCAT and GPA criteria for underrepresented students?

This is certainly a challenging question and one that has drawn a great deal of attention over the years. A recent DiverseMedicine Inc poll showed that 64% of those surveyed take the stance that MCAT and GPA criteria should be lower for underrepresented students. What do you think? Here are my thoughts.

I do agree with the majority opinion on DiverseMedicine Inc. At first thought, my answer would have been a resounding NO! Why should the criteria be lower for any particular group. Why show favoritism? This is NOT fair. If I am a patient, wouldn’t I want the smarter, more intelligent doctor? Wouldn’t you? Well, now that I really think about it, intelligence would not be the first thing I look for in a physician. The truth of the matter is, that in this day and age, even patients can look up answers online as to how to treat certain medical conditions. If a patient can do it, of course a doctor can. I’d rather have the physician who is resourceful and compassionate versus the one who is more “intelligent” (based on test scores). Though I am still a young physician, I have practiced long enough to know that there are other characteristics physicians more important than test scores. You can ask almost any doctor if they know someone who scored of the charts on their exams but still isn’t a very good physician and they will tell you yes. So my point is simple, higher scores do not equal better doctors (studies have demonstrated this truth)!

If two applicants are exactly identical in all aspects except their race, I would argue that consideration should be given to the underrepresented one. It is important to understand we are living in an era during which racial demographics are changing faster than ever. Along with this, national priorities are changing as well. Many studies have shown that some patient populations tend to feel more comfortable and may have better outcomes when treated by a physician on similar ethnicity. It is our obligation as a medical community to strategize ways to meet the nations needs. Just think about it, what groups use more healthcare dollars per-capita? The underrepresented groups (e.g. rural, racial minority, impoverished, etc). The reasons as to why this is are many, of which one is they often feel they do not have physicians who can relate to them.

As young physicians in the United States, we are inheriting a failing system and innovative mentalities are necessary to rectify the situation. There are many problem areas, and perhaps one of the most obvious is lack of proper care to underrepresented populations. So why not put resources towards that problem. What better resources are there than human personnel? In other words, we need more health care providers willing to go practice in those underrepresented areas and the people most likely to practice there are the people who are from there. We NEED to get physicians practicing in underserved areas!

So, accepting the student with a gpa of 3.6 and MCAT of 25 over the one with 3.8 and 30 may in certain circumstances be to the benefit of the nation. I know, but this isn’t fair is it? Well, I’d also argue that it wasn’t fair the first student mentioned went to inner city schools as a child with outdated text books and teachers who were more concerned about getting home than educating the kids. But we won’t get into that, at least not now….


2 thoughts on “Should Med Schools lower MCAT and GPA criteria for underrepresented students?

  1. Profile photo of Dr. DanielDr. Daniel

    Great blog. Unfortunately, we are not yet at a point where the average underrepresented minority has the financial/social support, study tools, or proper mentorship to be as competitive with these test scores. Even at that, other major factors like nepotism may also interfere with chances. This is why mentorship programs like diversemedicine are needed to help even the playing field a bit. As the next generation of minorities comes along with their parents being doctors the scores will begin to blend.

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