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The US Supreme Court’s Decision on Affirmative Action and the Medical Field’s Response

In June, the Supreme Court issued a decision that bars colleges and universities from using race-conscious, or affirmative action, admission practices. The crux of this decision was the belief that Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated the Equal Protection Clause, as they did not offer objectives that justify the use of admission practices based on race. Of note, the Supreme Court did not overturn all instances of considering the race of an applicant; for example, an applicant could detail how race has affected their life within their personal essay, and that sentiment could be considered. Ultimately, while it is unclear the extent to which an applicant's race can be considered, it is clear that the race-conscious policies and/or practices that many higher education institutions utilize will need to be revisited to be aligned with the court’s decision.


While Harvard and the University of North Carolina (more broadly, colleges and universities) were the targets of this decision, this will most likely impact medical school and residency/fellowship recruitment—as seen from the AAMC and ACGME that have re-articulated their stance on the importance of diversity within the field of medicine, while also recognizing that they will need to adapt following the decision. There has been a plethora of responses from the larger medical community as well, such as with Johns Hopkins and Stanford Medicine, that express a similar message.


The ACGME, in particular, asks for a certain dedication from GME programs toward recruiting and retaining a diverse cast of residents and fellows. This could be seen simply from the ACGME’s Common Program Requirements, which state that programs must engage in the recruitment of a diverse and inclusive workforce (Requirement I.C), or in Common Program Questions (required to submit an application for program accreditation) that ask how the program will recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive group of trainees and faculty. As stated in the ACGME’s message to the community, these regulations are founded on the accepted idea that a diverse healthcare workforce can combat the prevalent health disparities experienced by minority groups.


While it is undetermined how the ACGME will react to the recent decision (specifically, with any changes to ACGME regulations or accreditation), Germane Solutions is confident that they will still maintain this dedication, as stated in the ACGME’s message to the community. We will remain up-to-date with these newfound practices and relay them to our community as they develop.


While the impact of this decision on the GME community is not fully known now, we believe there are still a number of fundamental practices that programs can still utilize to recruit a diverse class of residents, such as a focus on bias mitigation throughout the recruitment process. These include, but are not limited to, blinding certain applicant information via recruitment tools (such as ERAS or Thalamus), standardized interview questions and procedures, and faculty development sessions dedicated to bias mitigation.


Germane Solutions recognizes the impact and importance of diversity and inclusion within the field of medicine—and likewise, the challenges this recent decision may exacerbate—but we remain confident that the medical field’s commitment to diversity and inclusion will persist, and that the GME community, specifically, will be able to adapt to upcoming ACGME guidelines and continually work towards their own commitments to diversity and inclusion.



 

“AAMC Deeply Disappointed by SCOTUS Decision on Race-Conscious Admissions.” AAMC. June 29, 2023. https://www.aamc.org/news/press-releases/aamc-deeply-disappointed-scotus-decision-race-conscious-admissions.


“Johns Hopkins Affirms Commitment to Diversity in Wake of Supreme Court Decision on Race in Admissions.” John Hopkins University. June 29, 2023. https://hub.jhu.edu/2023/06/29/scotus-affirmative-action-johns-hopkins-message/.


Nasca, Thomas J., MD, MACP. “Letter to the GME Community from Thomas J. Nasca, MD, MACP, President and Chief Executive Officer of the ACGME: Why Workforce Diversity Matters to Health Care and Graduate Medical Education.” ACGME. June 13, 2023. https://www.acgme.org/newsroom/2023/6/letter-to-the-gme-community-why-workforce-diversity-matters-to-GME/.


Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, et al. “June 29, 2023 Supreme Court Affirmative Action Decision.” CNN Politics. June 29, 2023. June 29, 2023 Supreme Court affirmative action decision (cnn.com).


“Stanford Medicine Leaders' Message Regarding Supreme Court Ruling on Race-Conscious University Admissions.” Stanford Medicine. June 28, 2023. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2023/06/scotus-decision-affirmative-action.html.






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