December 7, 2018
The Barriers Facing Underrepresented Pre-Med Students
An underrepresented student’s entry into the medical profession is uniquely challenging.
The path to medical school is long and challenging for all aspiring doctors, but underrepresented students face distinct barriers. These challenges have contributed to the American healthcare system’s diversity gap — in 2016, 55% of medical school applications were white, in contrast to the 7% and 8% of black and Latinx applicants, respectively.
Read on to learn more about the significant barriers that our work at CPASS Foundation addresses.
Lack of Mentorship
A supportive mentor helps students navigate obstacles on the arduous road to medical school. In fact, in many cases, that path begins when a young child encounters a role model, whose successful career as a medical professional exemplifies what’s possible. The underrepresented students we work with at CPASS often lack mentors and access to other formal support systems that typically provide exposure into these career paths. Many of our students don’t personally know any doctors, let alone believe it’s possible to someday become a physician themselves. Our programs expose underrepresented students to doctors, from all backgrounds, thriving in a career that may have once seemed impossible.
Lack of Financial Resources
Medical school is a big investment — of time and, of course, money. In life, many pursuits are harder for those at a financial disadvantage, and med school is no different. In fact, it is arguably harder. The vast majority of the activities on a candidate’s resume that seem appealing to schools are not often viable for less privileged students. More privileged students can afford to go to competitive, private colleges; to work with private tutors; to take on unpaid internships and research positions. When you are paying your way through school, or forced to work during summer to support yourself and family members, those activities are simply not an option.
Lack of Peers
Even when accepted into a competitive medical school, underrepresented students often have to fight the false belief that they don’t belong there. Can you imagine how it must feel to find yourself in a rigorous academic environment when suddenly you notice that no one else there looks like you?
In his first year at Duke University, Damon Tweedy, MD, the author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine, was mistaken for a handyman — by one of his professors. After that experience, and after learning that his MCAT scores were lower than some of his classmates’, Tweedy felt inferior to his peers. Many underrepresented students have reported similar feelings — but they do deserve to be there.
Learn more about CPASS Foundation.
CPASS Foundation aims to open up the pathway of future jobs in healthcare and technology to underrepresented middle school, high school, and college students in Illinois. We offer exposure to STEM careers in medicine and other fields that many students have even never heard about. Sign up for our emails to learn how you can help invest in a more diverse future for STEM and healthcare.