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June 18, 2003

Affirmative Action in Medical School Admissions—Reply

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(23):3084. doi:10.1001/jama.289.23.3084-a

To the Editor: Dr Cohen1 argued that the US Supreme Court should not abandon affirmative action in medical school admissions. I agree with Cohen that the medical profession both benefits and is benefited by society, and thus selection criteria for medical school must not disallow segments of that society from gaining access.

During the Supreme Court hearing, much attention will be focused on the grade point average (GPA) and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores. Although it is known that applicants of certain minorities have lower scores,2 those 2 criteria have uncertain relevance in selecting the best candidates for the profession. The discrepancy between the high matriculation rate (90%) and significantly average lower MCAT and GPA scores in the underrepresented minority populations certainly points out the inadequacy of those 2 criteria in predicting medical school performance.3,4 That is not surprising, considering that "medicine" is actually a collection of multiple professions that are highly variable in their knowledge base, skill requirements, and modes of practice. Furthermore, there are many criteria of a "successful" physician (eg, a busy practice, a good educator, number of publications, quality of research), and thus the relevance of GPA and MCAT scores is further diluted.

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