Anti-DEI Efforts Are Putting A Damper On Black Student Recruitment At Medical Schools 

Anti-DEI Efforts Are Putting A Damper On Black Student Recruitment At Medical Schools 

Black doctors matter!

Medical schools across the country are struggling to recruit Black students thanks to growing anti-diversity, equity and inclusion efforts from GOP legislators and the Supreme Court. 

Researchers found that a majority of Black patients prefer seeing doctors who look like them and experience better health outcomes. The revelation calls for an increase in Black medical schools so that they can train to become doctors. However, since the Supreme Court overturned affirmative action in higher education, over two dozen states have passed laws restricting DEI programs. 

Specific legislation, according to school administrators and diversity advocates, keeps health disparities already experienced by people of color in danger — especially if former President Donald Trump wins in November 2024. “I don’t expect this movement of anti-DEI legislation to slow down or stop at all,” Anton Gunn, health care consultant and former head of the Office of External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said. 

“And it likely will exacerbate if Donald Trump gets the opportunity to be president of the United States again.”

Jerrian Reedy recently completed his first year at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine on the journey to become an orthopedic surgeon. After witnessing medical trauma in his family at just nine years old, he decided to join the small number of only one in 10 doctors who identify as Black or African American in the state of Mississippi. There are 660 medical school students enrolled in the four-year program; out of that number, only 82 are Black. 

That number was on the brink of not growing as state GOP leaders Rep. Becky Currie and state Sen. Angela Burks Hill introduced legislation limiting how colleges and universities spend money on DEI initiatives. Hill released a statement saying the state needs doctors of all kinds — not just Black doctors — and thinks money spent on DEI salaries and programs should be geared towards initiatives that benefit all students. “Qualifications should determine who gets into medical school, not color or socioeconomic status,” she said. 

“Can’t we just be happy with more highly qualified doctors, no matter their skin color? I thought a color-blind society was the goal.”

Luckily, both bills never made it before the 2024 legislature for a vote.

In April 2024, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Embracing Anti-discrimination, Unbiased Curricula and Advancing Truth in Education (EDUCATE) Act as an attempt to block federal funding for medical schools that, he claims, “force students to affirm ideological beliefs and prioritize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).” “Woke universities are forcing America’s future doctors to care more about race and gender than saving lives,” the seasoned lawmaker said. 

The limited number of Black doctors in Mississippi isn’t new news. According to What I’m Reading, over one million Black people reside in a state that only has less than 600 Black doctors, as well as health outcomes rank one of the worst in the country. While one study by the JAMA Network Open found life expectancy was extended for Black patients in counties with higher numbers of Black primary care physicians, former medical students feel the disparities are rooted in systemic racism. “A lot of the Black physicians in the state have a bitter taste in their mouth about our medical school,” Demondes Haynes, a graduate of the 1999 class at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said. 

“We absolutely are not saying every Black patient has to have a Black doctor, but because the patient population in Mississippi is diverse, they should at least have the right to say, ‘This is what I want.’” 

Despite efforts to stop the growth of Black doctors, the University of Mississippi School of Medicine is still putting its best foot forward to recruit more interest from potential Black students. For the past ten years, the school has hosted an African American Visit Day to foster interest. 

Similar events are also hosted for Hispanic and Native American students; however, school administrators welcome all students to African American Day regardless of race, as the goal is to extend preferential treatment to minority applicants. “This is about shaping the possibilities of what could be,” Loretta Jackson-Williams, vice dean for medical education, said. 

“These kids are at that precipice where they can choose to do something that’s really hard for their future, or they can choose an easier pathway. That choice doesn’t come about overnight.”