American College of Physicians joins brief urging Supreme Court to uphold considerations of race, ethnicity in medical school admissions process

Medical school obligations include educating a more diverse physician workforce to redress current disparities in health care where minority patients tend to receive less and lower quality care

Philadelphia, November 2, 2015 -- The American College of Physicians (ACP) today joined the Association of American Medical Colleges and 31 other organizations in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, urging the court to uphold considerations of race and ethnicity in the medical school admissions process.

The petitioners argue that significant health disparities continue to exist in the U.S. along several lines, including socio-economic status, residence in a rural or urban environment, and, most notably, race and ethnicity. Factors contributing to these disparities include an inadequate number of doctors practicing in underserved areas and the solution is a workforce of culturally competent health professionals.

"Student diversity clearly benefits all medical school students, faculty, and practicing physicians by enhancing opportunities for improved cultural competencies and sensitivity," said Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, president, ACP. "Preventing, inhibiting, or barring medical schools from considering race and ethnicity in admissions would undermine policies intended to provide enhanced opportunities in the medical profession for students from minority and underserved populations and would counter necessary efforts to achieve a more diversified physician workforce to serve an increasingly more diverse American public."

In its "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care" policy ACP says that "medical and other health professional schools should revitalize efforts to improve matriculation and graduation rates of minority students. ACP supports policies that allow institutions of higher education to consider a person's race and ethnicity as one factor in determining admission in order to counter the impact of current discriminatory practices and the legacy of past discrimination practices."

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2013 out of the total U.S. MD active physicians, 4.1% were Black or African American, 4.4% were Hispanic or Latino, 0.4% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and 11.7% were Asian.

"Much work needs to be done by our nation's medical schools to improve representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the medical profession," Dr. Riley said.

Also, the ACP Ethics Manual states: "Physicians should provide culturally sensitive care. Cross-cultural efficacy 'implies the caregiver is effective in interactions that involve individuals of different cultures and that neither the caregiver's nor the patient's culture is the preferred or more accurate view. Cultural humility 'enhances patient care by effectively weaving an attitude of learning about cultural differences into patient encounters.'"

ACP and 29 other organizations filed a similar brief to the Court in this case in 2012.

About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 143,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.