ACP Addresses Legislation Aimed at Banning DEI Programs in Medical Schools

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Says these programs are essential to including diverse perspectives in the field of medicine and improving health outcomes of underserved and marginalized communities

April 19, 2024 (ACP) -- The American College of Physicians is raising the alarm about recently introduced legislation that would pull federal funding from U.S. medical schools with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs.

"Research shows that a diverse physician workforce is critical to advancing equity and understanding in health care," said Dr. Omar T. Atiq, president of ACP. "DEI programs serve to address the current and historical underrepresentation and inclusion of diverse perspectives and insights in the field of medicine, improve health outcomes of underserved and marginalized communities, promote equity and understanding among clinicians and patients and facilitate quality care through an inclusive physician workforce. Diverse populations in medical training settings also improve learning outcomes by increasing active thinking, intellectual engagement skills and strengthening understanding of and empathy for diverse cultures."

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in March by Rep. Greg Murphy, M.D. (R-N.C.) and aims to eliminate federal funding for U.S. medical schools with DEI programs "or any other functional equivalent." The Senate version of the bill was introduced in early April by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

The bill, known as the Embracing anti-Discrimination, Unbiased Curricular, and Advancing Truth in Education (EDUCATE) Act, would forbid noncompliant medical schools from participating in guaranteed student loan programs, and these schools and their students would no longer be able to get grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration, according to Shari Erickson, ACP chief advocacy officer and senior vice president.

Federal research funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority may also be threatened, she noted. In addition, accreditation agencies would also be required to check that medical schools do not promote the programs.

"This would be a significant blow to medical schools across the country since many have worked very hard to implement equity programs," Erickson said.

The bill is unlikely to become law, according to Erickson, but similar federal legislation will likely be introduced in the future. "We need to get ahead of this trend and express our concerns about it," she said.

ACP sent a grassroots alert to members urging them to oppose the congressional bill and will be releasing a joint letter with allied medical societies.

At the state level, the governor of Alabama signed anti-equity legislation in March. According to NPR, the state now bans universities from using public funds to support DEI programs. In Texas, a new law took effect in January that prohibits DEI programs at state colleges and universities, Texas Public Radio reported. Some institutions changed the names of their DEI programs but promised to continue to support diversity.

And in January, the Florida Board of Education approved regulations that ban the use of federal or state funds for "any program, campus activity or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification," ABC News reported.

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