CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy at its Annual meeting aimed at ensuring greater diversity in the physician workforce. Through the new policy, the AMA will work toward establishing best practices for the sustainability and success of health care career pipeline programs, or “pathway programs”—designed to draw students from diverse backgrounds into the field of medicine. One of the ways the AMA will accomplish this is through the publication of a white paper chronicling these programs, which will focus not only on helping identify best practices but also tracking participant outcomes.

“Studies show that patients prefer receiving health care from and have better health outcomes when they can relate to, understand, and share similar backgrounds with their doctors. That’s why the AMA is committed to efforts aimed at ensuring medical schools are building a diverse pipeline of physicians whose racial and ethnic backgrounds reflect the actual needs of patients,” said AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D. “One big way to advance health equity is to promote greater diversity among medical school applicants and enrollees. We will continue to support and improve pipeline programs because we know they are an effective way to help ensure there are enough physicians being trained to better reflect patients in the communities they serve.”

To help identify whether a medical school applicant has previously participated in a pipeline program, the new policy calls for the AMA to help develop a relevant question that will be included on the Association of American Medical College’s (AAMC) electronic medical school application. As part of this policy, the AMA will work with AAMC and other stakeholders to create a plan to analyze the resulting data to help determine the effectiveness of various pipeline programs.

While reports indicate that communities of color are growing much more quickly in the U.S. than whites, African-American/Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and Native Americans, continue to be a very small percentage of medical students and the physician workforce. In fact, fewer than 10 percent of physicians throughout the U.S. are from an underrepresented minority group, including African American/black, Native American, Alaska Native, or Hispanic.

The new policy extends the AMA’s work to achieve health equity and increase diversity in the physician workforce, both of which are key goals of the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium. As part of their work with the AMA’s 37-medical school consortium, Morehouse College of Medicine is sharing their success with the extensive pipeline programs that they have with local colleges—providing mentoring support from current students and alumni. Additionally, as part of their work with the consortium, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine collaborated with Kaiser Permanente to develop a three-year education track for students committed to primary care careers, with an emphasis on addressing medically underserved populations, workforce diversity and workforce gaps. This program currently enrolls 50 percent of its students from traditionally underrepresented communities in medicine.

Most recently, the AMA convened two meetings of medical education experts from the 37 medical-school consortium. Both focused on improving diversity and inclusion in physician training. One meeting worked on issues related to creating an inclusive educational environment where physicians-in-training from diverse backgrounds will thrive. The other worked on selection and retention issues that will lead to a more diverse physician workforce.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.