Should medical schools and research fellowships pick students based on race? The obvious answer is no. Yet a growing number of medical schools and institutions are explicitly discriminating by skin color. Not only is this destructive of medical standards, it’s likely unconstitutional.
The Association of American Medical College currently lists more than 140 scholarship opportunities for visiting medical students who are “underrepresented in medicine.” These scholarships are offered by medical schools, hospitals, and a variety of other healthcare institutions. While their details differ, the scholarships generally share making racial preferences the key to an applicant’s success.
This is wrong for two reasons. First and foremost, making race the decisive factor in awarding scholarships will lower the standard of medical care and excellence. Candidates for visiting student positions and fellowships should be judged on test scores, grades at their home institutions, and other professional criteria, all of which demonstrates their ability to excel in the medical field. Ignoring or downplaying these standards does not bode well for healthcare. While there’s small room for non-merit-based criteria, the line should be drawn at economic need or the first member of a family to go to medical school.
Second, these scholarships are broadly unconstitutional. Both the Constitution and federal law prohibit racial preferences. Yet that’s exactly what these scholarships are: Preferential treatment based on race. While some institutions have tried to get around this by adding tricky language to their scholarship criteria, it’s clear that the goal is to hire people of some skin colors over others. That is unacceptable and un-American.
Medical schools and providers that offer these scholarships are opening themselves up to lawsuits. They should abandon this racial discrimination before that happens.
Do you know of a race-based scholarship or program at your institution? Let us know.
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