Context: The percent of underrepresented minority (URM) students who apply to medical school has changed minimally in the past 40 years. Due to the lack of URM applicants, the consequent matriculation of URMs is grossly disproportionate from their percent representation of the US population. Increasing diversity among medical students and physicians has previously been identified as essential to decreasing healthcare disparities among US minorities.
Objectives: The objective of our study was to recognize the barriers of applying to medical school among URMs in high school.
Methods: To identify and assess the prevalence of barriers, surveys were distributed to participants of Med-Achieve, a mini-medical school program of diverse high school students in New York City during the 2019–2020 academic year.
Results: Among students who will be first in their immediate family to attend college, 80.0% perceived a barrier to pursuing medical school. Specified barriers indicated include the cost of medical school (77%), a lack of guidance/role models (53.9%), and the predicted inability to do well in medical school classes (53.9%). At the end of the program, a statistically significant reduction in the barrier of lack of guidance/role models was seen.
Conclusions: This study highlights the benefit of mini-medical school programs, especially programs with a mentoring component, to decrease the perceived barriers of applying to medical school among URMs. It also suggests the potential role of similar programs to increase diversity in medicine and to decrease healthcare disparities among minorities in the United States.