The Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling will have far-reaching consequences for Black and Latino students hoping to attend medical school, and in turn, will only worsen health disparities among people of color across the country. the experts said.

After the high court ruling On Thursday, he struck down affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard, many fear that medical and nursing schools and other professional institutions can no longer foster diversity when considering race in their admissions processes. The decision will result in fewer black doctors and more racial bias in the medical field, said Dr. Uché Blackstock, a founding physician at Promotion of equity in health.

“Fewer black health professionals means less culturally responsive and equitable care for black patients,” he said. “In addition, the lack of black representation among black health professionals is a problem for the younger generations, since ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’”

Blackstock put it in strict terms in a chain of tweets. “This is about life and death for us. Today, we are only 5% of doctors, ”she wrote. “This decision will accelerate the death of black people in this country and we are already dying prematurely.”

Dr. Uche Blackstock.Courtesy of Dr. Uché Blackstock

The court ruled that the affirmative action programs violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and are therefore illegal. The vote was 6-3 for UNC and 6-2 for Harvard, big wins for conservative activists. Although the ruling prohibits schools from using race as an admissions factor, prospective students can still share their racial or ethnic background through application materials such as essays and personal statements and through their extracurricular activities.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor highlighted the ruling’s potential impact on healthcare, writing in her dissenting opinion that «increasing the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds joining ‘the ranks of medical professionals’ improves ‘access to healthcare and health outcomes in medically underserved communities'».

Data and decades of research support Sotomayor’s opinion. Blacks and Latinos are both more like have chronic and life-threatening health conditions and lack health insurance as a result of systemic racism, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, research has shown that these health outcomes for black and Latino patients do better when treated by doctors who share their race or ethnicity.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, highlighted the disparities in your response to the ruling.

“This ruling will make it even more difficult for the nation’s colleges and universities to help create future healthcare experts and workers who reflect the diversity of our great nation. As a result, the health and well-being of Americans will suffer,” he said.

Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, echoed Becerra.

“Diversity is vital to healthcare, and this court ruling deals a major blow to our goal of increasing medical career opportunities for historically underserved and minority individuals,” he said in a statement. «This ruling is bad for health care, bad for medicine, and undermines the health of our nation.»

Black and Latino admissions to medical schools have improved in recent years, with Black students making up 10% of those enrolled in the 2022-23 school years and Latino, Hispanic, or Spanish-origin students making up 12% of the total enrolled, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

While that’s an improvement, black and Latino students still make up a small proportion of the overwhelmingly white medical school student body.

As of 2019, 54.6% of all medical students in the country’s medical schools were white, with Black and Latino students accounting for 11.5%, according to the most recent general data from the Association of Medical Colleges. of American Medicine.

More schools are making efforts to close the racial gap in medical schools. The Association of American Medical Colleges established the Collaborative Action for Black Men in Medicine network to support black men interested in medicine. Xavier University in Louisiana and Morgan State University in Marylandboth historically black universities, recently announced that they are establishing medical schools.

“We need more African-American doctors and more Latino doctors, because being a doctor is a form of opportunity for people and we must all have equal access to opportunities to reach our potential,” said Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, a medical student at Yale University. who writes about racism in the medical field.

«I hope that medical schools are really prepared to find other ways to ensure and fulfill their mission of a more diverse medical school student body and a more diverse portfolio.»