Medical student diversity is headed for an eye-popping rebound this fall at Wayne State University School of Medicine, following a scathing report by national accreditation officials that cited the Detroit-based medical school for a precipitous decline in minority students.
For the 2015-16 school year, Wayne State had only accepted five black students and two Hispanic students and no Native Americans for the freshman class. It was the lowest number of underrepresented minorities in the history of the medical school, said Jack Sobel, M.D., dean of Wayne State's medical school.
But this upcoming school year, Sobel said Wayne State has acceptances from 31 black, 18 Hispanic and three Native American students — a 643% increase — for the entering class of 2016-17. He said more could be on the way as the admission process is not yet complete.
“Thanks to new leadership, a completely new holistic admissions process, very active community outreach, campaigning and recruitment, we are on our way to correcting this problem,” Sobel said in an email statement Wednesday to faculty and staff.
Sobel credited the minority student increase to its newly appointed Diversity Advisory Council of the Dean, led by Herbert Smitherman Jr., M.D., and interim vice dean of diversity and inclusion, and Assistant Dean Emerita Jane Thomas.
Last June, Chicago-based Liaison Committee for Medical Education placed Wayne State's 1,200-student medical school on accreditation probation, citing 12 infractions, including lack of recruiting sufficient minority students, violations of duty hours for clinical clerkships at hospitals for internal medicine, surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology.
In October, the LCME lifted the probation and placed it on “accreditation with warning.” The school must regularly report progress over the next two years.
Sobel said the incoming class this fall has a slightly higher grade point average than past years. Incoming students already accepted average 3.78 GPA, up from 3.70 to 3.74, he said.
Moreover, the average Medical College Admission Test percentile of those already accepted is 84%, which is about mid-point range of 79% to 88%.
“This tells me that what I suspected was true: These students, who are more than qualified to attend medical school, were out there all the time,” said Sobel, who was named dean in June. “We simply had stopped seeking them out, and worse, turned them away by considering only GPA and MCAT scores.”
Sobel said he was disappointed Wayne dropped the ball at recruiting these types of candidates over the last few years.
“(We) led the nation in the number of medical students from underrepresented minorities in medicine,” he said. “Medical school representatives from across the nation flocked to our campus to learn from us the processes we implemented to become the national leader in this area.”
From 1990 to 2006, he said, Wayne State admitted an average of 13%, or 35, African-American students each year.
Of the 50 medical schools place on probation from 2005 to 2014, 15 schools were cited for lack of diversity, the most of any category.
The LCME is the accrediting body for 134 American medical schools, four in Puerto Rico and 17 in Canada. From 2005 to 2014, it has placed nearly one-third of the schools it reviews on probation for various violations.