The US Supreme Court recently accepted on appeal 2 cases from the University
of Michigan regarding the constitutionality of race-conscious decision making
in higher education admissions. The consequences of the Court's decision will
directly affect the future of medicine in the United States. Medical schools
have a societal obligation to select and educate the physician workforce of
the future. To outlaw the use of affirmative action in the admissions process
would cripple the profession's ability to achieve racial and ethnic diversity.
Preserving this diversity in medical school admissions programs is important
for 4 major reasons (1) adequate representation among students and faculty
of the diversity in US society is indispensable for quality medical education;
(2) increasing the diversity of the physician workforce will improve access
to health care for underserved populations; (3) increasing the diversity of
the research workforce can accelerate advances in medical and public health
research; and (4) diversity among managers of health care organizations makes
good business sense. This article explores these reasons in detail, reviews
the history and effectiveness of affirmative action in medical school admissions
programs, and explains why alternatives to affirmative action are unworkable.
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