The University Record, March 19, 1996

Medical School environment 'unwelcoming' to minorities and women, study shows

By Julie Peterson
News and Information Services

Women and minorities find the Medical School to be an uncomfortable and unwelcoming environment, and experience that environment very differently from white males, according to the results of a cultural diversity audit commissioned by the School.

The report, presented March 12 to Medical School department chairs and top School and University administrators, was the result of a yearlong series of individual and group interviews and a written survey of faculty and students by Nichols and Ass ociates Inc., a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

Members of the consulting team, which included top scholars from across the country, noted that the audit was unusual in its scope and praised the School for its courage in undertaking such a venture. "I commend you for being willing to exam ine yourselves in this way," said Edwin J. Nichols, director of the team. "Many are not willing to examine themselves-they just die of terminal cancer."

In addition to pointing out difficulties faced by women and racial minorities, the audit also revealed that nearly all faculty, both majority and minority, share feelings of competition and stress exacerbated by the current climate of health-care reform.

"Our consultants have identified some fairly sharp cultural issues about our environment that we need to deal with," said Medical School Dean Giles Bole.

A. Lorris Betz, executive associate dean, said the audit was commissioned by the School's diversity committee because of concerns about attrition by women and minorities from the ranks of students to the level of house officer (in terns and reside nts) and faculty.

For example, while minorities comprise slightly more than 17 percent of the School's student body-well above the national medical school average of 11.4 percentonly 9 percent of house officers are minorities and 2.6 percent of faculty. The compar able national figure for minority faculty is 5.3 percent.

"This study provided us with an impressive amount of information, and it will take us all awhile to fully digest it," said David Gordon, assistant dean for faculty affairs. Next steps are to communicate findings of the report to faculty and students, and determine how to go about remedying the ills pointed out by the study.

For more information about the report, call 763-4098.