Wayne State med school may face accreditation probation

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Wayne State University School of Medicine faces possible accreditation probation from the Liaison Committee for Medical Education, which cited diversity and 11 other areas that need to be improved.

But President M. Roy Wilson said Thursday the university is already working to improve diversity in the medical school, which admitted just three minority students last year. WSU received recommendations last month from a task force on ways to boost minority enrollment.

"We used to be a model for diversity in the medical school," Wilson said. "But now, we just haven't done a very good job in attracting minority candidates."

The LCME, the accrediting body for 144 medical schools, visits campuses every eight years and on its recent to Wayne State cited the medical school for 12 violations. Wilson said the decision was made on June 15 but he received the formal letter this week.

LCME said its policy is not to release lists of violations; Wayne State spokesman Matt Lockwood said a copy of the letter listing the violations was unavailable.

Wayne State will appeal and a decision will be made this fall, so the medical school will avoid any decision on probation at least until then.

"It's not a common action but it indicates a serious concern," said Dr. Dan Hunt, co-secretary for the LCME, adding that three or fewer have faced accreditation probation each year over the last five years.

Wayne State is not on probation, Hunt emphasized, and the university has a right to ask for a reconsideration so nothing is finalized.

"To date, the LCME has never withdrawn accreditation," Hunt said.

Besides lack of student diversity, the university was cited for various shortcomings that are easily fixed, Wilson said, such as by adding more seats to an auditorium. He added that the action taken by the LCME did not reflect the quality of the education provided at Wayne State's medical school.

Wilson said creating a more diverse medical school class is the most challenging task, which is why he named a task force months ago.

The report showed that between 1990 and 2006, 13 percent of the students in the entering medical school classes at Wayne State, or about 35 students per class, were African-American, according to the task force. But in 2014, Wayne State accepted only one African-American and two Hispanic students.

Michigan voters in 2006 approved Proposal 2, which banned affirmative action in higher education admissions. The constitutional amendment was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014.

"The recent and significant decline in the number of underrepresented minority students at (the medical school) has not largely been driven by (Proposal) 2, but rather by the documented downsizing and/or elimination of historic resources at the School of Medicine, such as recruitment, outreach, retention and support services for all students, particularly underrepresented minority students," the task force report said. "There has been a drift away from our historical commitment to a diverse medical student body."

Among the recommendations were to add a coordinated, integrated outreach at the middle, high school and undergraduate level to create a pipeline of minority applicants to the medical school, and to add a new position, vice dean of diversity and inclusion. Herbert Smitherman Jr., president of the Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan, has been appointed interim chair.

Though the law affected diversity at Wayne State, Wilson agreed with the report and said the university "dropped the ball" in its recruiting efforts at a campus that used to be a national model and had a diverse medical school matched only by historically black colleges.

"We have a very diverse country that is getting even more diverse," said Wilson, who served as deputy director for strategic scientific planning and program coordination at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health before his post at WSU. "We need a more diverse health care work force to have better quality health care."