Last year we revealed that the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) had started collecting information on applicants’ race and background, and planned to add “Social Justice/Advocacy” in the work experience section. Sure enough, the 2024 version of the AMCAS had done this, and shows it is going even further down the identity politics wormhole.
The AMCAS, administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), is the centralized system prospective medical students use to submit their applications to multiple schools. Scores of prospective doctors participate in the AAMC’s informational webinars each application cycle, such as the one held on April 23, 2023. Titled Navigating the 2024 AMCAS Application Cycle, the presentation offered a review of the application with an emphasis on the new elements for 2024.
One area the webinar addressed was the “AMCAS GPA.” Once all courses are entered into the application, AAMC verifies the coursework and the student’s completion status. Then, AMCAS converts those grades into “AMCAS grades,” which creates the AMCAS GPA. “The AMCAS GPA provides the medical schools with a standardized way to compare each applicant’s background,” the narrator stated.
But is the AMCAS actually providing standardization in evaluating the background of future medical students? The new additions to the application indicate that the AAMC plans to collect and report more than just subjective data on academic achievement.
The new “experience type” of Social Justice/Advocacy was added to the application based on recommendations collected over a couple of years. The FAQs page on the AAMC website explains that the “Social Justice in Medical School Admissions Working Group” was formed in 2021 “to further explore the value medical schools place on advocacy and social justice,” and defined how this information can be considered during the admissions process.
“A social justice or advocacy experience is one in which you work to advance the rights, privileges, or opportunities of a person, group of people, or cause,” the webinar narrator stated. “It is not tied to any particular ideology,” the instruction continued, “and is inclusive of all personal understandings of social justice and advocacy.” Examples of acceptable activities given in the presentation include:
- Registering people to vote
- Climate activism
- Advocating for civil rights
- Decreasing health inequities
- Addressing food deserts
- Building awareness for a particular cause or health condition
- Advocating for vulnerable populations such as children or homeless people
- Assisting with policy change or development
These topics include causes and activities that are addressed by other disciplines within healthcare. Social workers – not physicians – are better suited to evaluate and assist patients with socioeconomic issues. Gathering this new category of information suggests an effort to discover applicants who will accept further indoctrination to becoming activists first, and physicians second. The AAMC says as much when it describes “holistic review in medical school admissions:”
Medical schools are continuing to assess their admissions policies and processes in recruiting a future physician workforce who will help to further address these complex and complicated issues and solutions within their communities.
The webinar also addressed the pending Supreme Court decision on affirmative action in college admissions, but made it clear that for now, applicants can share any information they want on their applications. “While we cannot predict the outcomes of these cases,” according to the presentation, “any prescription from the court will be directed at the school’s behavior, not applicants.” But, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decisions, “schools will likely continue to prioritize mission alignment when evaluating applicants,” the narrator concluded.
The AAMC is continuing to load the AMCAS with ammunition for admissions officers to use in support of the “holistic review” process. Naturally, personal background and life experiences have a dramatic effect on one’s character and are important factors in what makes each person unique. But issues of identity cannot replace the role that merit and achievement plays in determining who will be a good doctor, and attempting to create physician advocates for various social causes does not train them to be optimal diagnosticians and healers.
As one med school applicant told us last year, “As a future physician, I commit to striving for the highest quality of treatment within my scope to all my patients, regardless of skin color. I hope we can pay that same commitment to the physicians of the future.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Have you seen questions on a healthcare education program application that values identity politics over student achievement? Do No Harm wants to hear from you, and you may remain anonymous if you wish.
Get up to speed with the threats facing healthcare – and how we’re protecting patients and physicians.
"*" indicates required fields