Applying to Medical School

Diversity in Medical Secondary Applications

Descend no further because this is the bottom line: if you are a premed applying to medical school, you will be required to take part in the timeless discussion of diversity and healthcare. It’s advantageous to acknowledge this as you find yourself diligently completing countless secondary application prompts discussing diversity and inclusion. Of the 27 secondary applications I submitted, 19 of them had questions that required me in some way to discuss how I contributed to the diversity of their school, or discuss why diversity is so important in medicine. The irony of asking this question is that secondary applications as a whole are not very diverse. Secondary applications in general have a lot of overlapping essay prompts that will draw upon the same common themes. That being said, one of the best preparations you can do for writing on hot topics such as diversity is to keep it in mind during your daily routine, and engage in discussions with your friends, family, adversaries, coworkers and teachers when possible.

||Learn about more common secondary application topics||

In the context of medical school admissions, the term “diversity” can sometimes be unconsciously replaced with the term “race” or “heritage.” The first thing to acknowledge is that when it comes to admissions, race does matters, which isn’t necessarily a good or bad or even causative association, but is simply another factor to consider throughout the application cycle. The AAMC ‘s data shows that for allopathic medical schools in 2011, the average GPA for Mexican-American and African-American matriculants was 3.53 and 3.44, with MCAT averages of 29 and 26.3 respectively. Yes, the scores are different, the premed qualifications are somewhat different, and I would say that this is in a spirited effort to produce a class of doctors that more accurately mirrors and connects to our patient populations. Achieving a more balanced physician pool is a an inspiring mission for the healthcare field, and the affirmative action itself remains an icon of medicine’s inclusivity.

||Learn more about ethnicity and medical school applications||

So how does this apply to you? Diversity applies to you because when you write your secondaries, you will have to explain how you contribute to the diversity of the class, and I don’t want you to fall prey to some of the same misconceptions that I did. The application process had me so conditioned that when I received the topics asking me to write about my diversity, my mind immediately landed on one thing- race. As I looked at that first prompt I thought “Ohhh great. I’m white, I’m middle class and my parents are not only still alive and married, but are both Jewish.” I felt extraordinarily grateful for what I had, but I also felt like the antithesis of diversity. I saw my ‘lack of diversity’ as a disadvantage. When being constantly fed concepts and opinions of diversity it is so easy to make it synonymous with race, ethnicity and culture. While all these factors contribute to diversity, the definition bends far beyond the scope of race. Do not get trapped within one-dimensional definitions of diversity. I have known a lot of premeds who have felt the need to outsource their diversity in their applications by talking about how they served with underprivileged youth of different races, or went on a global medical trip to Uganda where they developed a global view of medicine. I am not saying those experiences don’t have a place within your application, but they should not replace your own diversity. These questions of diversity give you a chance to personally connect with the admissions office at a school, and for many admissions committees it can be one of the dominating factors of your application.

In case you’re wondering what exactly I mean by approaching topics on diversity, consider the following examples from my very own class. I have two classmates who are gifted in math and computer science but whose path brought them into medicine instead. This is one aspect of the diversity they bring to our class, and they’ve used their skill to create a new elective at our school that teaches students analytic programs like R for their research, and they also teach how math can make scientific research stronger. Another student loved to run throughout college and rallies students in our class to go do half marathons and runs together, and yet another student acts as our classes social lightning rod by consistently organizing efforts for social events and keeping us all bonded and balanced. My diversity came in the form of extensive experience in emergency prehospital care, and I’m finding ways to try to share that with others. Everyone has something that they bring to the table, whether it is academic, emotional, athletic, or social.

Take the time to search through what makes you diverse. If your race, ethnicity and culture truly relate to your unique contributions to your medical school class then by all means convey that to the admissions committee, but know that these questions can be brought in many directions. You do not have an obligation to play into the advantages and disadvantages of race and culture in your statements, but you should feel an obligation to represent yourself honestly. Although I’m not racially unique when it comes to the field of medicine, I bring my unique accomplishments, experiences and opinions to the table. I know what those are, find yours and create your own definition of diversity for your statements.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor

Evan Laveman

Evan Laveman is a writer for He is currently an emergency medicine resident at Harbor/UCLA. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine and is also a UCLA graduate from the department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics. He is originally from San Diego where he was a lifeguard and EMT. During his free time he enjoys cooking, hiking, and being in the water.

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