For their analysis, the investigators used data from medical students graduating from 123 medical schools who applied to 12 residency programs at academic centers in the 2014 and 2015 academic year.
After adjusting for multiple demographic and educational characteristics, the odds of AΩA membership for white students was nearly six times greater than for black students and nearly two times greater than for Asian students.
There was no statistically significant difference in AΩA membership between white and Hispanic students. This finding may be due to a lack of statistical power, which could produce a type II error, Dr Boatright and his coauthors suggested.
The results raise the possibility of bias in the AΩA membership process, which could limit professional opportunities for black and Asian medical students. “Given the association between AΩA membership and a medical student choosing a career in academic medicine, the racial/ethnic disparity in AΩA membership described in this study may undermine the pipeline of minorities entering the academic health-care workforce,” they write.
One measure that might be helpful for improving membership selection would involve the compilation and dissemination of member characteristics nationwide, they added. Such a measure would allow the AΩA to “internally benchmark trends in member demographic data over time.”
The study was supported by funds from Rosemarie Fisher, MD, associate dean of graduate medical education at the Yale School of Medicine and designated institutional official for Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Boatright D, Ross D, O’Connor P, Moore E, Nunez-Smith M. “Racial Disparities in Medical Student Membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.” JAMA Intern Med. 2017. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9623. [Epub ahead of print]