Finishing up the year at the UC College of Medicine, this year’s class of first-year medical school students was the most diverse in the college’s history—reaching 20 percent racially and ethnically diverse students. The milestone was a goal for Mia Mallory, MD, Associate Dean of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. Mallory and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion are charged with recruiting students and physicians from diverse backgrounds to create a pipeline of doctors that will help improve patient care in Cincinnati.
“We know that the population of patients we're caring for is becoming more diverse, and we know that health disparities are reduced when patients are cared for by people who look like them, who come from the same groups,” explained Mallory. “So, one of our main missions is to recruit students who come from diverse backgrounds to mirror our patient population and care for patients who really need them.”
To recruit these students, UC College of Medicine offers unique admissions practices geared toward creating meaningful connections that reinforce the notion that the medical school is a family. These efforts include diversity interview days, multi-mini interviews and a holistic review process.
While all medical school applicants go through an interview process, UC College of Medicine dedicates two to three days per year to interviewing strictly students from diverse backgrounds. This allows Mallory and Chris Lewis, MD, Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, to connect with diverse students, provide opportunities for interviewees to meet current students and highlight what Cincinnati and UC have to offer. The day before the interviews, prospective students participate in a program including a dinner downtown with Mallory and her team, current students and residents and a student-led driving tour of Cincinnati. According to Mallory, roughly 92 percent of the diverse students who attend UC College of Medicine participate in a diversity interview day.
One element of all UC College of Medicine interview days is the multi-mini interviews—a series of eight short interviews with different “raters” who don’t have knowledge of the applicant’s test scores, grades or other background information. The interviewer is looking for more intangible qualities like compassion and empathy that Mallory believes make good doctors. It’s part of the college’s holistic review process that focuses on areas outside of test scores, grades and extracurriculars since students of disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds often don’t have the same access to academic and support resources.
“We want students that we would say, ‘I want them to care for my own family,’ and that’s what the holistic process gives us the opportunity to do,” said Mallory. “Even if some students don’t have perfect test scores, they can still be great doctors.”
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s efforts don’t end once students are accepted. Mallory and Lewis maintain relationships with their students focusing on their academic and personal success and providing multiple levels of support and mentorship throughout their time at the medical school. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion even has a learning specialist, Swati Pandya, MD, who has been extremely successful in enhancing the test taking skills and abilities of their students.
Mallory isn’t sure yet what the makeup of the 2018-2019 first-year class will be, but she’s determined to continue increasing the number of talented, diverse physicians in Cincinnati to serve a growing diverse patient population.
“I always tell our students to get to know somebody who doesn't look like you, or doesn't believe like you, or doesn't live like you, and it'll change your life,” said Mallory. “That's the reason we push diversity here. We're trying to build human physicians that are culturally competent to take care of a variety of patients, and they can learn that first by getting to know their diverse classmates.”