AMA Wire

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012

This Week's News

Case headed to U.S. Supreme Court would impact med school admissions

Case headed to U.S. Supreme Court would impact med school admissions

The AMA has co-signed a brief in favor of permitting universities to employ a holistic review of applicants to make their admission decisions. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, is scheduled to come before the Supreme Court of the United States Oct. 10.

Filed Aug. 13 by the Association of American Medical Colleges along with the AMA and 28 other leading health education and professional organizations, the amicus brief urges the court to uphold the ability of universities—including medical schools—to base their admission decisions on an array of attributes in addition to applicants' academic achievements, including racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"Inhibiting medical school admission decisions would undermine a pipeline of well-trained physicians from all backgrounds," AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, said. "We support increasing the number of underrepresented minority physicians to help create a more diverse pool of physicians with the ultimate goal of ending racial and ethnic health care disparities."

The plaintiff in the case, Abigail Fisher, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin. She contends that she was discriminated against as a white applicant and contends that her constitutional rights were violated. The university maintains that she was not a competitive applicant and stands by its policy of evaluating multiple factors in admission decisions.

Medical schools have historically practiced such holistic evaluations of applicants, including personal interviews and consideration of the applicants' backgrounds, AMA Medical Student Section (MSS) Chair LeAnne Roberts said.

"The consideration of ethnicity by no means disregards the academic achievements of applicants, and minority students—like all accepted medical students—still need exceptional qualifications to gain admission," Roberts said. "The AMA-MSS continues to support diversity in medical education as institutions seek to craft a class of diverse, well-qualified physicians who reflect the makeup of the population at large."

The constitutionality of the university's admissions policy was upheld in the case's previous hearings in district and appeals courts.

Read more in a recent article in American Medical News.