Improving Underrepresented Minority Medical Student Recruitment with Health Disparities Curriculum

  • Monica B. Vela
  • Karen E. Kim
  • Hui Tang
  • Marshall H. Chin
Original Article



Diversity improves all students’ academic experiences and their abilities to work with patients from differing backgrounds. Little is known about what makes minority students select one medical school over another.


To measure the impact of the existence of a health disparities course in the medical school curriculum on recruitment of underrepresented minority (URM) college students to the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.


All medical school applicants interviewed in academic years 2007 and 2008 at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine (PSOM) attended an orientation that detailed a required health care disparities curriculum introduced in 2006. Matriculants completed a precourse survey measuring the impact of the existence of the course on their decision to attend PSOM. URM was defined by the American Association of Medical Colleges as Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Mexican American, and Mainland Puerto Rican.


Precourse survey responses were 100% and 96% for entering classes of 2007 and 2008, respectively. Among those students reporting knowledge of the course (128/210, 61%), URM students (27/37, 73%) were more likely than non-URM students (38/91, 42%) to report that knowledge of the existence of the course influenced their decision to attend PSOM (p = 0.002). Analysis of qualitative responses revealed that students felt that the curriculum gave the school a reputation for placing importance on health disparities and social justice issues. URM student enrollment at PSOM, which had remained stable from years 2005 and 2006 at 12% and 11% of the total incoming classes, respectively, increased to 22% of the total class size in 2007 (p = 0.03) and 19 percent in 2008.


The required health disparities course may have contributed to the increased enrollment of URM students at PSOM in 2007 and 2008.


health disparities curriculum education medical students underserved 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica B. Vela
    • 1
  • Karen E. Kim
    • 1
  • Hui Tang
    • 1
  • Marshall H. Chin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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