Hello my diverse readers! When I applied to medical school, I had this idea in my mind that there was some sort of perfect pre-med applicant prototype that schools had in mind. All I had to do to be accepted was become or fit into that perfect pre-med mold. Then I went to my medical school orientation and realized precisely how wrong I was. What I didn’t realize is what diversity in medicine looks like these days. So today let’s talk about diversity!
Diversity of Experience
Of course there are members of my class who did come right out of college and have the perfect research experience, MCAT score and GPA. There are also many members of my class who had careers before applying to medical school. I attend med school with people with degrees in pharmacy and law. These so-called non-traditional medical students went back to school and completed their pre-med coursework before they applied.
Most roads to medical school are not straight through. My roommate, for example, has a degree in Spanish Literature and I, myself, have a Masters degree in Public Health. One of my classmates was a professional skater and more than one of my classmates took a year off to pursue a passion other than a career in medicine. There are a variety of educational experiences and life experiences that make a good medical school applicant and a great physician.
Diversity of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender
Given that the patient population in the United States is incredibly diverse, it makes sense that your medical school class should be every bit as diverse as your patient population. That’s not the case quite yet. In the United States, most medical school classes are still overwhelmingly (around 60%) white. The AAMC is aware of the need for increased racial and ethnic diversity and keeps very detailed statistics regarding the racial backgrounds of applicants and matriculants to medical school.
That doesn’t mean that the problem is confined to the level of medical school students though. In our women in medicine discussion, I got to highlight the fact that women are applying in roughly equal numbers to men, but are still underrepresented in positions of authority such as being professors or deans. The same problem holds true for racially underrepresented groups. While the numbers of non-white applicants is slowly increasing, the percentage of non-white members on medical school faculty is still woefully (less than 40%) small.
Diversity of Goals
I also used to assume that everyone came to medical school with more or less the same goal in mind: to become an excellent physician. While I’m glad to say that’s still true, what I didn’t realize is how different that looks to everyone. Some of my classmates are driven to specialize in obscure fields of medicine, to become the best at a certain specific skill-set. Others are interested in developing research protocols and focusing on the hard-science aspect of medicine. Some of my classmates want to have more broad-based, public health applications of their medical knowledge or are passionate about working in medically under-served communities. Everyone has the same overarching goal, but each is unique in its scope and practice.
Basically, my idea of a perfect medical school applicant and medical school student was completely wrong. Today, it’s all about following your own path and pursuing your extracurricular activities and passions on your way to medical school. So, get out there and live your pre-med dream (even if it means majoring in English)!