STAT, a national publication that covers health, medicine and science, came out Wednesday with a lengthy story on the medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia and it isn’t pretty.
The publication says the med school is in danger of losing its accreditation next year because it has so few minority students and faculty.
STAT notes that the current first-year class has only five black students out of a total of 104. In 2015, there were two, it says, and in 2014 just one.
Dr. Patrice “Patrick” Delafontaine, dean of the med school, tells STAT it’s an issue the school has to deal with, but STAT says interviews it conducted with more than half a dozen current and former students “described a campus that has made it harder for them to succeed.”
“Some said that MU’s lack of diversity means they are more likely to be mistaken for a janitor, to be singled out for ID checks by campus security, or to hear physicians make off-handed remarks about patients of color,” STAT writes. “They said it was more difficult for them to thrive here than white students. They said they have dealt with subtle and overt displays of racism. And some have questioned whether they made a mistake deciding to attend the school.”
The med school has been cited twice before, in 2001 and 2008, by the national accreditation organization, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). And as STAT points out, the LCME has cited nearly half of all medical schools in the United States for lacking diversity.
It doesn’t help that MU has experienced racial turmoil in the last couple of years, as STAT also points out, or that Columbia is in a state that is 83 percent white.
Susan Wilson, vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a KCUR contributor, says that it’s harder for schools in the Midwest to attract minority students and faculty “because most African Americans and Hispanics don’t want to be somewhere where there’s not much diversity. So that’s an issue right then and there.”
“That’s not to be an apologist,” she says. “But I would imagine they have a harder time because, quite frankly, most medical students want to be in an environment where they have faculty mentors who are like them, but they also want to see patients who are like them.”
The Columbia Missourian, which obtained the LCME’s June report through a Sunshine Law request, reported in September that the med school “was deemed noncompliant in the areas of diversity programs, student mistreatment, curricular management and affiliation agreements. …”
“Overall, the committee determined that the school's diversity was unsatisfactory because of the longevity of the diversity problem and lack of progress,” the newspaper reported.
The Missourian quoted from the LCEM report: “While efforts are being made, the School of Medicine has yet to deal with the barriers that inhibit the enrollment of students and the hiring of faculty in the full range of diversity that the school seeks in order to maintain a quality learning environment.”
Editor's note: KCUR is licensed by UMKC.
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.