More Diversity Needed in M.D./Ph.D. Programs

More Diversity Needed in M.D./Ph.D. Programs

Findings from a study published online on February 8 in JCI Insight suggest that sociodemographic factors influence acceptance rates into the country’s M.D./Ph.D. programs.

Darnell K. Adrian Williams II and colleagues analyzed data from 15,156 applicants, 6,840 of whom were accepted into at least one U.S. M.D./Ph.D. programs from 2014 to 2021. They looked at the relationships between sociodemographic factors, research experience, and likelihood of being accepted. A significantly smaller percentage of Black/African American applicants were found to have gained admission to M.D./Ph.D. programs compared with applicants from other demographic groups. Acceptance was more likely for applicants with a family income greater than $50,000 or who had done more research (one or more publications or presentations to their credit).

The findings emphasize (1) the need for greater inclusivity and equity in admissions processes to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive physician-scientist workforce to reduce healthcare disparities; and (2) the importance of outreach early in college to potential applicants from lower socioeconomic status families and to Black/African Americans, so they know how to prepare themselves to be more competitive applicants following graduation.

Mr. Williams, the study’s corresponding and co-first author (alongside Briana Christophers at Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program), is an M.D./Ph.D. student in Einstein’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Five current Einstein students contributed to this work, which was funded by the American Physician Scientist Association. The study’s senior author is Myles Akabas, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, professor of medicine, and director of the MSTP at Einstein.

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