Black Medical Students Are Less Likely Than Their White Peers to Be Selected for Residency Programs

A new study led by scholars at the Yale School of Medicine provides an analysis of medical school matriculants who applied for residency from 2018 to 2021. For most aspiring physicians, medical school is just the first step toward establishing a career. Applying to residencies, in which they will train in their medical specialties, is an expensive, time-consuming, high-stakes process. But as with many aspects of life, there are disparities in how residents are selected.

The study found that the least likely to be placed in graduate medical education residency programs were Black or African American and Hispanic male students. Black female students and Hispanic female students also had much higher rates of not placing compared to White students.

The authors insist that improving placement rates for students who are disproportionately affected needs to happen intentionally at the structural level. For residency programs, the authors recommend examining which aspect of an application is being prioritized — test scores, awards, publications, volunteerism, and so on — and giving more balanced consideration to all components.

“Residency programs need to start looking more holistically at the students,” says Mytien Nguyen the lead author of the study. “Residency programs should also make spaces for diverse students, and not rely on evaluations based on how eloquently the individual speaks, for example.”

The full study, “Rates of Medical Student Placement Into Graduate Medical Education by Sex, Race and Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status, 2018-2021,” was published on JAMA Open Access. It may be accessed here.

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