In an increasingly diverse country, connecting patients with providers who look like them and feel culturally relatable will lead to better health outcomes for all.
Picture this: Two dozen men gather in a classroom in rural south Georgia to get their hair shaped up and talk about life. The barbers are the main attraction, but the get-together is organized by medical students – specifically Black medical students – as a way to reach people who might not otherwise see a doctor. They check blood pressure amid the buzz of electric clippers. No surprise, nearly everyone in the room is hypertensive.
Some racial and ethnic groups are underrepresented in the medical field because they face unique barriers to admission to medical school. One admission requirement that can present a barrier for applicants is the physician letter of recommendation (PLOR). Undergraduate students report confusion with the application process and lack of mentorship to be two of their biggest challenges to becoming a doctor. It is especially challenging to those who already have limited access to practicing physicians. Therefore, we hypothesized that in the presence of a PLOR requirement, the diversity of students who apply and matriculate into medical school will be decreased.