The U.S. physician workforce does not reflect the demographic characteristics of the US population. Most U.S. states do not train physicians who are demographically representative of the state population. Diversifying the physician workforce to reflect the U.S. population is key to providing high-quality, high-value, culturally effective care. Studies have shown that the concordance of race and/or language of the physician and the patient – leads to better patient outcomes. Patients who share their language or cultural background with their physicians are more likely to follow their advice and express higher levels of satisfaction.
According to “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2018 to 2033,” the most recent update from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. will see a physician shortage of nearly 122,000 doctors by 2032 because a large cohort of physicians over age 65 are retiring (AAMC Physician Shortages). The US is also expected to face a shortage of primary care physicians ranging from 21,400 to 55,200 by 2033. Primary care physicians act as the ‘gatekeeper physicians’ of medicine. They assist a patient in maintaining health, and they can treat a large number of patient conditions, and can also determine when a condition is at a level that a referral to a specialist is necessary. A shortage of primary care physicians may lead to patients using emergency rooms in hospitals to meet their health care needs, which may jeopardize patient safety and significantly increase costs for the entire health care system as unnecessary lab tests, imaging studies, and referrals may be ordered or repeated. These shortages are likely to be particularly acute in communities already suffering from inadequate access to medical services, such as low-income and rural areas, which are more likely to be served by minority doctors—who are currently underrepresented in the healthcare workforce. Students from underrepresented minority and disadvantaged backgrounds represent an untapped pool of talent that can help fill these gaps, benefitting not only themselves but their communities and the nation as a whole.
Recognizing this potential and seeking to address the related equity and shortage problems, the MPP Academy was designed to partner with medical schools, medical student organizations, and other stakeholders across the nation to increase the number of high achieving students from diverse backgrounds who are academically and mentally prepared with the social-emotional skills to: 1) complete medical school and 2) become licensed to practice medicine in a medical specialty that provides a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives. The ultimate goal is to address a well-documented disparity in the physician workforce by increasing the diversity among doctors who are underrepresented in the physician workforce from the current rate of 11% to 20% by 2035. The MPP Academy is committed to building a diverse pipeline of future medical students, as early as 4th grade, that is more representative of the U.S. population.
Evidence suggests that minority and disadvantaged students indeed are underrepresented among applicants to medical schools, and those who apply may be a select group. At present, underrepresented minority (URM) students account for about 20 percent of medical school applicants, respectively (AAMC, 2022). Of all applicants (62,386 total applicants) to medical school in the 2021‒22 application cycle, 22.1% of underrepresented minority (URM) students were accepted (9% for Black students, 12% for Hispanic students, and roughly 1% for Native Americans and Pacific Asian, compared with 42.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites (AAMC, 2022). Thus, if the program achieves its short and medium-term goals/expected outcomes, URM students will be more likely to apply and be admitted to medical school (eventually expanding the share of URM students to match their representation in the general population).
In addition to diversifying the physician workforce, MPP Academy hopes to improve health services to disadvantaged populations and underserved areas of the nation (such as urban and rural areas), as minority and disadvantaged students who become doctors will be more likely to return to and serve their communities (AAMC 2021). We also hope to contribute more broadly to the health and scientific workforce through MPP program participants who do not become physicians but instead pursue other health-related careers, such as nursing and research in the sciences, and work with underserved populations or issues affecting them.
To achieve these goals, the MPP program provides comprehensive training and on-going support to help students become better prepared to thrive in the pre-med gateway courses in college, become competitive applicants for medical school, and to keep students on the path to medical school.
The mission of the MPP Academy is to increase the number of high achieving students who are academically and mentally prepared with the social-emotional skills to: 1) complete medical school and 2) become licensed to practice medicine in a medical specialty that provides a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives.
The MPP Academy was built to work in partnership with medical schools, student organizations and other stakeholders in the medical community to build a pipeline of future medical doctors, as early as the 4th grade, from diverse backgrounds to the physician workforce.
To meet these ultimate goals, MPP established Short and Medium Term Goals.
These short and medium term goals above align with the logic behind the program, which focuses on providing academic preparation, social-emotional skills, and career exposure as the mechanisms needed to:
The intent of the program is to help students determine if a career in medicine aligns with their core values and interests or realize that the field of medicine is not a good fit for them. Either way, students will have gained valuable career exploration, planning and decision making skills to help them find a career path that provides a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives. Additionally, students will have gained social-emotional skills, experienced life on a college campus, and met high achieving students from around the U.S. and the world who may become lifelong friends.
By 2032, the U.S. will see a physician shortage of nearly 122,000 doctors.
The U.S. physician workforce does not reflect the demographic characteristics of the American population. The United States is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse every day, but those changes are not reflected in the makeup of students, clinical faculty and leadership in medical schools.
Lack of Academic Preparedness for Pre-Med University Coursework
DEFINITION: UNDERREPRESENTED IN MEDICINE (URM)
“Underrepresented in medicine means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population (AAMC).”
Low number of early outreach medical physician preparation pipeline programs that are committed to recruiting and nurturing a diverse pipeline of future medical doctors, as early as 4th grade.
Lack of academic preparation, which resulted in low academic performance for URM students in the required pre-med college coursework to apply as a competitive applicant for admission to Medical School.
Lower than average test scores on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Financial barriers to Medical School.
Low representation of students underrepresented in medicine (URM) that apply to, enroll in, and graduate from medical schools that are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which is an accrediting body for medical education programs at schools of medicine in the United States and Canada.
Low representation of URM medical doctors, resident physicians, faculty, and leaders within medical schools, departments, and hospitals.
Just as healthcare diversity has its advantages, there are major risks that can be attributed to the lack of diversity.
Be it the result of a language barrier, differences in philosophy, differences in cultural norms (& expectations), or even cultural bias, lack of diversity can lead to communication breakdown with patients. And when patients cannot fully communicate or express their needs, dangerous mistakes can occur.
Lack of healthcare diversity can lead to limited perspective when providing patients with medical care, psychological treatment, and social support. It can stunt innovation and creative thinking, but more importantly, it could impede critical observations surrounding a patient’s diagnosis, medical history, or other socio-economic factors that may affect their health and well-being.
Lack of Role Models
Mentorship plays a critical role in our medical system. Doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and administrative personnel will always need the support of a mentor to guide them in their respective professions. It’s important for physicians and healthcare workers to have role models they can look up to and emulate throughout their careers. A lack of diversity can make it difficult for minority physicians and healthcare workers to find mentors with whom they identify and learn from. In turn, this can thwart their professional growth and their ability to provide the best patient care.
Lack of Future Diversity
Albeit an obvious consequence, it is an important one to the future success of any healthcare organization. The less diverse your medical staff is today, the harder it will be to foster it within your team tomorrow.
Bias does not always have to be explicitly expressed within a healthcare setting for it to become a problem. Bias can still impact decisions made for patients when it is embedded in the policies and procedures of a healthcare organization. This is referred to as implicit bias within a system. Greater diversity can stymie the destructive effects of implicit bias in patient care.
Improving the Diversity of the Physician Workforce
“If we want to improve the diversity of the physician workforce that reflects the demographic characteristics of the U.S. population, we need more diverse medical schools and graduates. And if we want more diverse medical schools and graduates, we need to increase the diversity of the medical school applicant pool by reaching out to a diverse group of elementary and secondary students in all communities across the country.
We then need to work to build their aspirations and interest in pursuing a career in medicine by connecting these students to early outreach pipeline programs such as the MPP Academy (MPP). Building a diverse pipeline of future medical physicians, as early as 4th grade, will help diversify the physician workforce that is more representative of the U.S. population.
Diversity pipeline programs such as MPP Academy provide rigorous academic instruction, clinical experiences, and mentorship to help aspiring medical doctors become a competitive medical school applicant, with the mindset, tools, and resources needed to succeed in medical school and beyond. MPP gives students an inside look at what it would be like to go to medical school and to become a medical doctor. MPP also provides exposure to the medical school application process and helps students understand how they can successfully navigate the admissions process and secure the financial resources needed to pay for medical school.”
Better Care for Diverse Populations
“A healthcare team should be as diverse, if not more diverse, than the patient base they are treating. This helps ensure that no matter who walks through the door, there is someone on staff who can identify with the patient, communicate with them, and better serve their individual needs.”
Remarks by Dr. Aaron Smith, Executive Director of MPP Academy
Increase the number of qualified URM and disadvantaged students who submitted an application for admission to medical school.
Medical School Admissions Knowledge
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Preparation
Financial Aid Knowledge for Medical School
Pre-Med Coursework Completion
Bachelor’s Degree Completion
Enhance institutional capacity to attract URMs and disadvantaged students to their medical schools.
Change institutional culture and attitudes regarding URMs and disadvantaged students’ potential to succeed.
Revise policies and procedures to encourage diversity in medical school applicants and enrolled students.