WSU med school shows improvement increasing diversity

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

One year after diversity reached an all-time low at Wayne State University’s medical school, the face of the incoming medical student is starting to change.

The 2015-16 class of 290 students included five African-American and two Hispanic students, prompting a diversity citation last year by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education, the accrediting body for 144 medical schools.

But among the 165 prospective medical school students who have been accepted into the 2016-17 class so far this year, 31 are African-Americans, 18 Hispanic and three Native Americans, according to an email from the medical school dean sent this week to faculty. The university expects the class will grow to 290 students, so the figures could increase.

WSU Medical School Dean Jack Sobel wrote he was concerned by the lack of diversity in this year’s class.

“Thanks to new leadership, a completely new holistic admissions process, very active community outreach, campaigning and recruitment, we are on our way to correcting this problem ... ,” Sobel wrote.

The diversity improvement comes as Michigan universities are forbidden from using affirmative action in admissions.

It also comes as the committee put WSU on probation in June, then lifted in October, for 12 violations, including diversity. At the time, President M. Roy Wilson said he had already named a task force, led by Dr. Herbert Smitherman Jr., to address the situation. Smitherman is now interim vice dean of diversity and inclusion.

He, along with Assistant Dean Emerita Jane Thomas, worked to address some of the task force’s recommendations including a coordinated outreach at middle, high school and undergraduate levels to create a pipeline of minority applicants.

“The average grade-point average of the students already accepted for next year’s class is 3.78, an increase over our traditional average of between 3.70 and 3.74.,” Sobel wrote. “The average Medical College Admission Test percentile of those already accepted stands at 84 percent, well within our traditional average of 79 percent to 88 percent. This tells me that what I suspected was true: These students, who are more than qualified to attend medical school, were out there all the time. We simply had stopped seeking them out... .”