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Medical schools are starting to diversify. But they’re learning hard lessons along the way

The enrollment of nonwhite students in medical schools has been steadily increasing, but there remain huge gaps between doctors and the communities they serve.

As medical students graduate this spring, American medical schools are celebrating the achievements of the nation’s newest doctors. They are also celebrating something else: an increase in the number of students from underrepresented populations.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of black students enrolled in U.S. medical schools rose by 4.6%, while the number of medical students identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native increased by 6.3%, according to data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges. It’s the latest evidence of a steady increase in the enrollment of nonwhite students over the past several years.

The numbers are encouraging, but only a start, educators say.

“It’s good that the hard numbers are up,” said Dr. Mark Henderson, associate dean of admissions at the University of California, Davis. “But there are real gaps between who our residents are and the communities they serve.”

The increases are also no accident.

In the seven years leading up to 2009, the number. Specifically, the group went beyond its previous suggestion that medical schools “should have policies and practices ensuring the gender, racial, cultural, and economic diversity of its students.”

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