UCSF cited as "most improved" UC medical school for diversity

November 13, 2008
News Office: Kirsten Michener

The UCSF School of Medicine continues to have one of the most diverse student bodies among California medical schools, according to a public policy institute study. Nearly one-third of students in last fall's entering class -- 28 percent -- are from groups underrepresented in medicine.

The study, conducted by the Greenlining Institute, cited the UCSF School of Medicine as the most improved in a new status report on the diversity of the University of California medical student body.

The report notes that "UCSF has shown the greatest increases in African American and Latino representation among its matriculants, compared to its institutional peers." Between 2001 and 2008, the proportion of African Americans at UCSF increased from 5 percent to about 10 percent and the proportion of Latinos increased from about 8 percent to about 13 percent. UCSF also has the largest number of African American and Latino students of all the UC medical schools.

The findings reflect an effort by UCSF leadership over the past several years to open medical school doors to all qualified students.

"This report is gratifying because we believe strongly that having a culture that embraces and promotes diversity is essential to fulfilling our health care education, research and patient care missions," says J. Renee Navarro, PharmD, MD, director of academic diversity at UCSF.

School of Medicine Interim Dean Sam Hawgood, MB, BS, emphasizes that "diversity and excellence are inextricably linked."

"There is overwhelming evidence that addressing the medical needs of our increasingly diverse communities requires us to have a similarly diverse community within the School of Medicine," says Hawgood.

According to the Greenlining Institute report, diversity in the medical student body is important because studies show that patient satisfaction increases significantly if the patient and the doctor are of the same race. Additionally, the report says that minority physicians are much more likely to practice in areas experiencing physician shortages than are non-minority physicians.

The report notes that UCSF has not only improved its ethnic and racial diversity in number, but "has also emphasized the importance of race in medicine, paying particular attention to racial health disparities."

Says Hawgood, "Diversity enhances the excellence of the school's teaching, research, and clinical missions. It is not an unrelated or a stand-alone goal."

Since 2004, the medical school has expanded its outreach efforts both to attract qualified students from underrepresented minorities and to increase the overall numbers of underrepresented minorities entering any medical school.

"The relative lack of diversity in medical school classes across the country reflects a broad problem throughout society. UCSF has always been among the leaders in the diversity of its student body," says Hawgood. "We hope that some of the best practices at UCSF may help other schools make similar gains."

Greenlining Institute researchers observed a pronounced difference in diversity between the first- and second-year classes at UCSF in 2007, which they attributed as "testament to UCSF's efforts in just that one year to increase diversity" at its school of medicine. According to the report, the first-year class includes 10 more underrepresented minority students than the second-year class, a difference in representation of 28.6 percent and 22.6 percent.

In the fall 2008 UCSF medical school entering class, the number of underrepresented minority students includes African American, 10 percent; Mexican American, 10 percent; other Hispanic, 3 percent; Pacific Islander, 4 percent; and Native American, 1 percent -- for an overall total of 28 percent.

The full Greenling Institute report is available at

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

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