The Case of the Leaky Pipeline: Exploring the Premed Experiences of Under-Represented Minority Students in the UC System
The lack of representation in the physician workforce poses a complex problem for the US healthcare system. This issue is particularly evident in California where under-represented minorities (URM) – African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Americans- make up 40% of the population but only 9% of physicians. Studies have shown an association between having providers of similar race/ethnicity and greater patient satisfaction and a decreased likelihood of unmet health needs. Additionally, URM physicians are more likely to practice in health physician shortage areas thereby filling a critical workforce need. There is therefore a need to invest in research, programs and policies that increase access and facilitate entry into health professions for URMs as a means of increasing diversity in the physician workforce. Post-bacs often serve as an alternate, lengthier and costlier pathway to medicine for URM students who face challenges during undergrad and are unable to apply directly to medical school after graduation. I argue that post-bacs, while playing a critical role in the pipeline to medical school for URMs, serve as a “band-aid” to larger institutional level issues. Based on data from semi-structured interviews with URM graduates of the University of California system, secondary data from the literature and personal observations, this dissertation explores the undergraduate premed experiences of URM students with the goal of developing recommendations to facilitate a more direct pathway into medicine.