Elite medical schools are deliberately recruiting woke activists, jeopardizing their mission of training physicians.
That’s what our organization found in a review of the application process for America’s top 50 medical schools. Nearly three-quarters of these institutions — and 80% of the top 10 — ask applicants about their views on diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism and other politicized concepts. The clear goal is to find the students who will best advance divisive ideology, not provide the best care to patients.
We based our review on the 2023 “Best Medical Schools” rankings by US News and World Report. We then looked at the secondary essay questions each school asks applicants, using a database compiled by Prospective Doctor. (Despite the name, secondary questions play a primary role in each institution’s selection process.)
Many schools explicitly ask applicants if they agree with statements about racial politics. Others gauge applicants’ views on or experience with woke concepts.
Harvard Medical School, the top-ranked institution, takes the latter approach. It asks applicants to share their “significant challenges in access to education, unusual socioeconomic factors, identification with a minority culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.” It then encourages applicants to “explain how such factors have influenced your motivation for a career in medicine.” Translation: Tell us how you want to solve social and political problems.
The same holds true for Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, which is tied for third. It states its commitment to “diversity,” then asks applicants to prove how their “background and experiences” will “contribute to this important focus of our institution.”
Other medical schools are more direct. Duke University School of Medicine, tied for sixth place, asks applicants to describe their “understanding of race and its relationship to inequities in health and health care.” Before doing so, they’re told about “Duke’s collective stand against systemic racism and injustice.”
Duke further states that it expects students to go beyond “passive moments of reflection and becom[e] more active as we build to make lasting change.”
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, ranked 14th, is even more blunt. It tells applicants: “We are interested in combating all forms of systemic barriers, and would like to hear your thoughts on opposing specifically: systemic racism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, and misogyny.” It then doubles down with the ask: “How will you contribute?”
Similarly, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School (#25) wants applicants to demonstrate “how you have committed yourself to understanding and aiding in the pursuit of equity and inclusion in your academic, professional or personal life.” How such activism relates to medicine is never stated.
Ditto at #43-ranked University of Miami Miller College of Medicine, where applicants must answer: “What have you done to help identify, address and correct an issue of systemic discrimination?” The answer can come from any facet of life, not just medicine.
Across these medical schools, there is now a default assumption that applicants understand and accept the tenets of woke ideology. That’s why the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (ranked 19th) can ask applicants to describe how “inequity has impacted you or your community and how educational disparity, health disparity and/or marginalization has impacted you and your community.”
The University of Minnesota Medical School (#43) states with confidence that “our country is reckoning with its history, racism, racial injustice, and especially anti-black racism.” Applicants must “share your reflections on, experiences with, and greatest lessons learned about systemic racism,” which assumes such racism is an inarguable fact of life.
Naturally, this worrisome trend extends far beyond elite medical schools. We found a larger number of lower-ranked institutions asking applicants to demonstrate their woke bona fides as well — everything from SUNY Downstate Medical Center to Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. It appears the majority of American medical schools now actively screen for ideologically aligned students.
And it’s not just students. Many schools are also moving to require that professors be woke, as well. For instance, the Indiana University School of Medicine recently approved new standards for faculty promotion and tenure. They are now “required to show effort toward advancing DEI.”
Medical schools are rushing down a dangerous road. These institutions have long lowered application and educational standards in the name of diversity; now they are enacting an ideological litmus test for future physicians.
Recruiting woke activists instead of the most qualified candidates will both undermine trust in health care and lead to worse health outcomes for patients. That’s the last thing medical schools should do.
Dr. Stanley Goldfarb is chairman of Do No Harm, where Laura L. Morgan, a registered nurse, is program manager.
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