Association of Native American Medical Students Urges UC Medical Schools to Create New Admissions Policy

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A photo of UCSD Medical School.
Maya Philipp / The Triton

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In an effort to increase Native American representation in the University of California’s (UC) medical schools, the Association of Native American Medical Students (ANAMS), sent a letter to the UC medical schools on August 21. The ANAMS, which represents Native American health profession students in the US and Canada, called for the implementation of a new admissions policy that would increase the number of Native American students at UC medical schools.

This policy would grant an automatic interview to all applicants to UC medical schools who meet minimum criteria and who can provide proof of citizenship or lineage to a federally recognized California Indian Tribe. This policy is estimated to increase interviews by five additional interviews per cycle at most. Advocates of this policy hope that it will ultimately increase Native American enrollment in UC medical schools.

The ANAMS Executive Board emphasized the importance of these changes, “given that the University of California is a land-grant institution, meaning that it was established on land expropriated from California Indian Tribes, your medical schools have an affirmative obligation to train future physicians from California Indian Tribes.”

According to Alec J. Calac, the founder and president of UC San Diego’s chapter of the ANAMS, this letter was, in part, a response to a 2018 study done by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“In 2016 43% [of MD-granting institutions in America] reported no Native American medical students, 48% reported 1-3 medical students who are native and 9% reported 4 or more. When you look at that a different way 91% of US medical schools have fewer than 3 Native American medical students. Which is really, as others have called it, a crisis,” said Calac. 

Congressman Raul Ruiz, urged the University of California to adopt this policy in a recent letter to John Pérez, the chair of the UC Board of Regents.

Alexis Lindquist, a staff attorney from the California Indian Legal Services, expressed her support for the implementation of this policy in her letter to the UCSD School of Medicine Office of Admissions on October 30.

In her letter, Lindquist noted, “To recognize tribal enrollment during the medical school admissions process would be to honor and recognize the importance of a thriving Native American community, one that can serve all individuals in California through the practice of medicine. ”

Proposition 209, a 1996 proposition that banned the use of affirmative action in public employment and education, would not inhibit the implementation of this policy as Native Americans are legally considered to be part of a protected political class that is unrelated to racial or ethnic identification.

According to the UCSD School of Medicine’s executive director of communications, Jacqueline Carr, the letter, and the policy that it proposes, is “currently being discussed among UC leadership.” None of the UC medical schools have responded to ANAMS regarding the policy and have deferred the decision to the UC Office of the President (UCOP), though the 2021 application cycle is currently underway.

The UCOP has not responded to The Triton’s request for a comment. 

According to Calac, “The School of Medicine has been around for 52 years and has trained over 4000 physicians and to my knowledge I am the first California Indian to ever attend the School of Medicine. I think that says enough, and also speaks to why such a policy is needed.”

In June of this year students and staff members held a protest demanding that UCSD Health implement anti-racist policies. This letter is the latest installment of recent efforts encouraging UCSD Health to adopt policies that would prioritize equity and inclusion.

Sarah Naughten is a staff writer for The Triton.