Minority recruitment suffers at Mizzou medical school

Friday, September 28, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- For the first time in more than 30 years, the incoming class at the University of Missouri-Columbia's medical school has no black students.

Officials say their recruitment woes reflect the low number of minority Missourians applying to all medical schools, including the state's flagship campus.

In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, only 30 black students from Missouri applied to medical school anywhere in the country, dean William Crist told the Columbia Daily Tribune. Thirteen of those students were accepted.

Only three first-year students at the Columbia campus identified themselves as minorities this year. Other classes at the school are between 5 percent and 7 percent black.

"We are constantly concerned and aware if we don't mirror the population of the state, and we just keep working at it," Crist said.

Current students and Crist suggested that the lack of black first-year students is a statistical anomaly: The 2006 incoming class, for instance, was 26 percent nonwhite.

This also is the first year that a full scholarship set aside for minority students starting in 2004 was awarded to a student who self-identifies as "white." The student is of Mexican-American heritage.

Medical student Kene Chukwuanu said he expects the school's diversity efforts to improve.

"There's been a record here of having fairly diverse classes throughout the years, so not to say this isn't a big deal, but I think there will be more minority students here next year," he said.

But Doris Agwu, a fifth-year senior at the Columbia campus who plans to apply to medical school, said black students interested in medicine don't get adequate support earlier in their college careers.

A dozen or so of her friends started as premed students, but only two or three remain.

"It saddens me. It almost felt like they were weeding out black students that did have a desire to go to med school because there just wasn't that support structure," she said. "I just kind of wish there had been people there to tell them to stick with it. "

Missouri also is falling behind in efforts to recruit Asian-American students, who nationwide make up 20 percent of medical school classrooms.

Last year, 225 Asian-American students applied to the Columbia medical school, but only three enrolled. That rate is about nine times lower than white applicants, the Tribune reported.

Information from the Columbia Daily Tribune: www.columbiatribune.com

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