Targeted Medical School Admissions: A Strategic Process for Meeting Our Social Mission

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© 2020, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. All rights reserved. BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Increased medical school class sizes and new medical schools have not addressed the workforce inadequacies in primary care or underserved settings. While there is substantial evidence that student attributes predict practice specialty and location, little is known about how schools use these factors in admissions processes. We sought to describe admissions strategies to recruit students likely to practice in primary care or underserved settings. METHODS: We surveyed admissions personnel at US allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in 2018 about targeted admissions strategies aimed at recruitment and selection of students likely to practice rurally, in urban underserved areas, or in primary care RESULTS: One hundred thirty-three of 185 (71.8%) US medical schools responded. Respondents reported targeted admissions strategies as follows: rural, 69.2%; urban underserved, 67.4%; and primary care, 45.3%. Nearly 90% reported some type of recruitment outreach to 4-year universities, but much less to community colleges. Student characteristics used to identify those likely to practice in targeted areas were largely evidence-based. Strategies to select students varied widely. CONCLUSIONS: Most responding US medical schools reported a targeted process to recruit and select students likely to practice in rural, urban underserved, or primary care settings, indicating widespread awareness of workforce challenges. This study also demonstrates varying approaches to and allocation of resources toward admissions targeting, especially the application and interviewing processes. Understanding how schools identify and admit students likely to practice in these fields is a first step in identifying best practices for selective admissions focused on addressing workforce gaps.