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Does affirmative action belong in medicine?

As the gatekeepers to the medical profession, medical schools have obligations that extend beyond their individual students to society at large. Those obligations include redressing current disparities in health care, where minority patients tend to receive less and lower quality care than others.

This statement comes from the amicus brief that AMSA has recently signed in the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas. Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this case.

About the case: Abigail Fischer charged that she was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin because they gave preferential treatment to minority students. She is white. The university argues that Ms. Fischer did not meet the admission criteria and simply was not accepted to the program. 

In any event, the issue here is affirmative action as it pertains to medicine. We won't comment directly on the case but instead discuss how physicians need to understand diverse cultures in order to make the system work. 

Research shows that when physicians understand more about the diverse cultures of their patients, physician decision-making is better informed, patients are more likely to follow their physicians’ advice, and medical outcomes improve.

At the same time, we see minority populations continue to disproportionately suffer from health conditions. These disparities cannot continue. AMSA signed on to this "friend of the court" because we agree with the AAMC, the main organization on this amicus brief, that medical schools are the key to eliminating the health disparities described above is to develop a workforce of people from all backgrounds to bridge the current differences between providers and patients. 

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