The rest of the country now knows what the UC Davis School of Medicine has for years: The school is one of the most diverse in the nation.

Beginning in 2009, the School of Medicine has implemented methods to boost underrepresented minority enrollment, particularly among students who want to work in medically underserved regions. Among these targeted curricula or tracks are:

  • Accelerated Competency-based Education in Primary Care (ACEPC), a three-year M.D. program designed with Kaiser Permanente to connect students with underserved communities.
  • TEACH-MS, or Transforming Education and Community Health for Medical Students, geared for work in urban underserved areas.
  • REACH, or Reimagining Education to Advance Central California Health, for students aspiring to work in the Central Valley.
  • COMPADRE, or California Oregon Medical Partnership to Address Disparities in Rural Education, a cross-state partnership to address workforce shortages in Oregon and Northern California by connecting students from underserved tribal, rural and urban communities to medical school and residency experiences throughout the region.

In addition to the Rural Program in Medical Education (PRIME) track, a new PRIME track is being planned for students committed to serving Native American patients and indigenous communities.

“The solution to health disparities is the development of a more diverse physician workforce — one more reflective of the various communities in our state and country,” said Mark Henderson, M.D., F.A.C.P., associate dean for admissions and outreach and one of the leaders who’s helped implement programs such as holistic admissions. “Being ranked No. 4 in the U.S. is validation of a decades-long effort to build diverse programs and a team of people committed to improving the health of California, including our Center for a Diverse Healthcare Workforce.”

A factor in quality care

Internal medicine resident Jorge Salazar, a native of Mexico who grew up in Alabama and attended a historically black college, chose UC Davis because of its commitment to diversity and the opportunity to treat patients who, like him, are Latinx.

“I value diversity tremendously and I think it’s probably the No. 1 factor to providing excellent care to patients,” he said. “You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you can’t connect to a patient, culturally, certainly that’s a barrier to providing great care.”

Fellow internal med resident Elise Boykin, who received her M.D. here, aspires to stay in the region because of its diverse population.

“I imagine my patient panel will be slightly higher in African American/Black patients because right now I’m still such a unicorn,” she said. “Black women account for less than 3% of U.S. doctors. My patients love that I am also Black.”

As good as the new ranking is, administrators acknowledge there’s a long road ahead at continuing to become more inclusive, one that goes beyond enrollment. “Diversity is one of our core values, and I think these rankings reflect that we continue to honor this value,” said Jorge García, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.P., associate dean for diverse and inclusive learning communities. “However, they also remind us that we all still have a lot of work to do. While diversity is great, it’s really only the first step, and it necessarily precedes a far greater goal — institutional excellence.”

He added: “I really love the more perfect institution we are becoming.”