Medical College of Georgia officials may have to place more emphasis on nonacademic criteria such as socio-economic backgrounds, geographic background and race in its admissions process, school representatives said Tuesday.
Admitting embarrassment over the two minority students accepted into its medical school, one of which was a black student, officials told a group of medical school advisers from across the state - who met at MCG Tuesday - that MCG's admissions committee could have done some things differently this year.
The committee already looks at more than an applicant's Medical College Admissions Test score and grade point average, said Mary Logan, associate dean of the medical school and head of the admissions committee.
The committee also looks at whether an applicant worked while they were in school, analyzes interpersonal and interview skills, looks at the applicant's maturity, and considers whether the individual volunteered in the health field.
"The issue we have is that it is very difficult to tell someone or someone's child who has done the volunteer work, has the grades and the MCAT score and has wanted to be a doctor ever since they were 5 years old that they weren't accepted because we had to take someone else in their place," said Dr. Logan. "This is a very hard thing to do."
Legal issues tied the hands of committee members. And the competitiveness of minority applicants was stagnant while the competitiveness of white applicants increased, she said.
MCG recruiters didn't build on gains the school made in minority enrollment in previous years, added Barry Goldstein, vice president for academic affairs.
"All of these things played into the downward trend of minority enrollment and we hope to change this next year," Dr. Logan said.
For the most part, MCG officials, like other schools across the country, are looking to a Supreme Court decision to guide them in making the medical school more diverse, said MCG's senior legal adviser, Clayton Steadman.
While it's up in the air what the school can do in light of affirmative action setbacks and an opinion by former state Attorney General Michael Bowers - in which he said race could not be used in admissions - schools may still consider race, socio-economics and income as admission factors, Mr. Steadman said.
"I think the former attorney general's opinion was extreme and the U.S. Supreme Court may find Proposition 209 as invalid or unconstitutional," Mr. Steadman said, referring to the California law that struck down affirmative action.
The University System Board of Regents has talked with the new attorney general, Thurman Baker, about the issue but has not asked his office for a formal opinion.
While MCG retains nearly all of its minority students, it wants to focus on getting them - especially black students.
The school wants to achieve parity with the state's total black population, said Dr. Goldstein. Blacks are nearly 30 percent of the state population.
"I want a doctor who looks like me. The data show that most blacks receive their primary care from black doctors and I'd think the state institution - the only public medical school in the state - should be able to produce those doctors to better serve the state," said Melvin Webb of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta.
At least two community leaders said MCG should allow more public scrutiny of recruitment programs as well as have more input with the school's minority enrollment committee.
"We're spending our tax dollars on these programs and we're not getting the desired results," said Dr. Marilyn Carter-Tomlin, a local physician and MCG alumna. "We need a system in place to monitor how you nurture these students because it may be that someone along the lines is undermining all of your efforts at all different levels and that's hampering your success rate."
Advisers at the conference told MCG officials that they may want to seek out other colleges and come up with special programs to help prepare minority students for admission. Others told them to look at how traditionally black medical schools recruit and admit students as well as medical schools, such as Duke University, that have been successful at minority recruiting.
Still others said MCG should look at its image.
"Students should be made to feel comfortable and welcome here," one participant said. "A lot of potential students are turned off when they see only one or two minority students were accepted into your school."
Some advisers said in order for MCG to make gains in minority enrollment, officials must demonstrate that they are serious about wanting diversity.
MCG officials said they are, but couldn't comment on how far they'll go to make it happen.