Financial Cost of Medical School Education
According to The Healthforce Center at UCSF, students underrepresented in medicine (URM) experience a greater barrier to medical school education than their non-URM counterparts, as they are more likely to have a lower socio-economic status (U.S. Census Bureau 2018).
Lack of Academic Preparation
Students underrepresented in medicine (URM) often receive lower grades in science and math courses because they are not as prepared as their non-URM counterparts (Chen et al, 2009). Schools they attend are typically under-resourced and do not provide rigorous academic coursework. Notably, the pre-medical gateway courses in college have been shown to cause students to lose interest in pursuing a career in medicine due to being academically underprepared (Barr et al, 2010, Barr et al, 2008).
Limited Exposure to Careers in Medicine
According to The Healthforce Center at UCSF, students underrepresented in medicine (URM) from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds may be unaware of the importance of relevant internships and accessing internships. Additionally, without financial assistance URM students may not be able to complete internships due to the need to earn income for educational and family expenses.
Stereotype threat is defined as a “socially premised psychological threat that arises when one is in a situation or doing something for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies” (Steele & Aronson, 1995). In the case of students underestimated in medicine (URM) in an educational setting this can lead to concerns of being viewed negatively by professors and peers with regard to their capabilities. This may lead to poor performance on standardized entrance exams and classroom performance.
According to The Healthforce Center at UCSF, URM students who are academically underprepared for college often have lower GPAs in the pre-medical prerequisite coursework, and URM students cannot typically pay for MCAT test preparation courses to maximize their scores. Additionally, URM students may struggle with requirements for writing essays and the interview process.
The Impostor Phenomenon (IP) is marked by an individual’s persistent perception of incompetency despite contrary evidence (Lige et al, 2016). URM students often face the barrier of imposter syndrome, in which case they feel like an intellectual fraud, creating self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. The American Psychological Association notes this is more prevalent in the minority communities.
Lack of Mentors Concordant with Student’s Race/Ethnicity
According to The Healthforce Center at UCSF, there is an importance of peer mentorship for college students. However, a key barrier for students underrepresented in medicine (URM) is the lack of mentors who are racially or ethnically concordant, given the lack of diversity in physician workforce.