Diversity in Medicine

Nursing students and faculty in a clinic

Increasing the number of physicians from diverse groups has been a priority of medical schools for many years. In response to this commitment, medical schools have instituted programs and resources specifically designed to assist in the recruitment and enrollment of these students.

Many medical schools employ a minority affairs officer who can assist and support underrepresented and/or disadvantaged students throughout the application process.

Underrepresented in Medicine (URM)

The Association of American Colleges (AAMC) defines URM status applicants as “those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.” There are four groups that are defined as URM:

  • Black/African American
  • Native American (American Indian, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian)
  • Mexican American
  • Mainland Puerto Rican

Socioeconomic Disadvantaged (SED)

The AAMC determines SED status based on the information provided about the occupation and education levels of an applicant's parents/guardians.


Resources for URM and SED Status Applicants


Summer Enrichment Programs

Summer enrichment programs are designed to provide pre-health undergraduates with coursework in the basic sciences, shadowing experience, limited clinical exposure and career development. Most programs provide funding to cover costs related to housing, transportation and tuition. Here is just a sampling of programs, all of which are geared toward SED or URM status students:

  • Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP, formerly SMDEP) offers academic enrichment, learning skills development, clinical exposure, career development, and financial planning. Program sites vary on how they deliver each of these required components and when the programs begin. There are SHPEP programs in OH, NY, CA, NC, DC, NJ, TX, KY, NE, VA, WA and MA.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Summer Academic Enrichment Program enhances the academic preparation of junior and senior undergraduates, as well as post-baccalaureate students. There are four tracks: dentistry, medicine, pharmacy and physical therapy.
  • Cooper Medical School’s Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment (PULSE) program is for undergraduates interested in a healthcare profession that focuses on clinical, research and service-learning opportunities in the context of urban health needs.
  • Einstein College of Medicine’s Summer Undergraduate Mentorship Program offers students a unique opportunity to become exposed to the realities and options within the medical profession through shadowing, coursework, workshops and research experience.
  • The AAMC Enrichment Program Database is a useful search engine for other programs throughout the country. Not all of these programs are geared toward URM or SED status students. The database is searchable by state, student type and program features.

Tour for Diversity in Medicine

Tour for Diversity in Medicine is a grassroots effort to educate, inspire and cultivate future minority physicians and dentists. They partner with organizations to provide expertise through workshops and speaking engagements.

Free Assistance Programs

The AAMC, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) all have avenues available for being waived from application and testing fees. They will not allow you to be reimbursed for fees already paid, so you must apply early!