The Yale School of Medicine interviewed the fourth-highest number of underrepresented medical school applicants in the 2013–14 application cycle, according to a recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report.
Of the 745 applicants Yale invited to an interview, 239 of them were from groups underrepresented in medicine (URMs) — students of African, Latin American, Native American and Pacific Islander descent. This 32 percent compares to 41.4 percent at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the highest-ranked medical school in terms of URM interview rates.
Among its peer institutions, Yale was a leader for interviewing URMs. Columbia, for instance, interviewed 20.4 percent URMs, while the University of California San Diego interviewed 30.3 percent and Dartmouth interviewed 30.7 percent. But with only seven black students, 17 Hispanic or Latino students and two Native American students matriculating in this year’s class, questions are being raised about where in the application process Yale is losing URMs.
“Sure we’re interviewing them, but are we fighting for them to come?” asked Amber Anders MED ’18, one of the few black women enrolled at the medical school. “No.”
Typically, 17 percent of Yale’s roughly 4,374 applicants are invited to interview between August and February, and admissions decisions are sent in March. This year, 10 more Hispanic or Latino students enrolled than in fall 2014. But the enrollment trend for black students — both domestic and international — has gone in the opposite direction.
Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern said the school is committed to diversifying the healthcare workforce and aims to admit a significant number of URMs. But all medical school administrators interviewed said they were surprised that Yale’s interview rates were so much higher than those at peer institutions.
Dean for Multicultural Affairs at the School of Medicine Forrester Lee MED ’79 said interview rates themselves are not an accurate measure of the school’s commitment to diversity, and the school does not treat them as such.
“We haven’t seen it that way and it’s not a metric we are trying to achieve per se,” he said.
Though Alpern said the school has multiple pipeline programs for URM students, both he and Lee said those strategies are nothing new, having existed for the roughly 20 years Lee has been at the school. Yale participates in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, a national program for URM undergraduate students interested in careers in healthcare. A significant portion of those who take part in the program apply to the School of Medicine.
Indeed, Anders — who called the article “laughable” and “ironic” — suggested that the school’s problem lies not with interviews, but rather with actually enrolling URMs. She said that Yale should make a greater effort to encourage URMs to feel at home at Yale, right from the day they interview.
According to Robert Rock MED ’17, who is black, there is a relatively smaller pool of competitive minority students applying to medical schools. As a result, those who are competitive are courted by multiple top schools across the nation. From his experience applying to medical schools, while Yale gets minority students to campus for interviews, it is less successful at persuading those students to matriculate.
“I think Yale is not as competitive as it used to be for minority applicants with options,” said Rock, whose decision boiled down to Yale and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.
Jessica Minor MED ’22 GRD ’22 said that meeting URM faculty and being hosted by a current student during the interview process who shares the applicant’s racial background — a process organized by the Student National Medical Association and the Latino Medical Students Association — is a big part of making URMs feel like they are part of the community.
But Anders said Yale does not do as much as other schools. While SNMA organizes URM hosting, she said, it is disappointing that Yale’s administration does not go out of its way to ensure URMs get to be hosted by people who look like them during interview day. She said that at other schools, the hosting system is a more formalized process.
Roughly 100 students go to Yale’s Second Look weekend each year, an event that allows admitted students to revisit Yale before making a final medical school decision. Activities during the event include sitting in on lectures, attending social events and participating in small group discussions.
Anders said that a quick glance around a lecture hall on any given day at the school can be disappointing for prospective Yale medical students who are URMs because there are so few other students from the same racial background as them. She added that this sentiment could worsen next year. Since no black women enrolled this year, those who want to be hosted by one during their visit day will find it much harder.
Moreover, she said, she is disappointed by how little the administration has publicly spoken about the low yield rate.
“It speaks volumes about how my presence, or lack thereof, is valued at the school,” she said.
Rock said he also noticed there were no black women, but said such absences of minority groups is not unusual.
“There was a class with no black male students [a few years before me] and it was a running joke,” he said.
Still, Minor said that in light of recent events — including publicity about sexual harassment at the school and Die In protests highlighting racial inequities in healthcare — there is pressure for the school to emphasize diversity. During the 2015 Second Look weekend, for instance, student groups, including the Women in Medicine Group and the US Health Justice Collaborative, held a safe space event to talk about identity and diversity.
She said this event, the first of its kind, was very well-attended. But then again, she said, she does not know if the students who attended ultimately enrolled.