What are the features of targeted or system-wide initiatives that affect diversity in health professions trainees? A BEME systematic review: BEME Guide No. 50

Background/purpose: There is interest to increase diversity among health professions trainees. This study aims to determine the features/effects of interventions to promote recruitment/admission of under-represented minority (URM) students to health professions programs.

Methodology: This registered BEME review applied systematic methods to: title/full-text inclusion review, data extraction, and quality assessment (QA). Included studies reported outcomes for interventions designed to increase diversity of health professions education (HPE) programs’ recruitment and admissions.

Results: Of 7225 studies identified 86 met inclusion criteria. Interventions addressed: admissions (34%), enrichment (19%), outreach (15%), curriculum (3%), and mixed (29%). They were mostly single center (76%), from the United States (81%), in medicine (45%) or dentistry (22%). URM definition was stated in only 24%. The dimension most commonly considered was ethnicity/race (88%). The majority of studies (81%) found positive effects. Heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis. Qualitative analysis identified key features: admissions studies points systems and altered weightings; enrichment studies highlighted academic, application and exam preparation, and workplace exposure.

Discussion/conclusions: Several intervention types may increase diversity. Limited applicant pools were a rate-limiting feature, suggesting efforts earlier in the continuum are needed to broaden applicant pools. There is a need to examine underlying cultural and external pressures that limit programs’ acceptance of initiatives to increase diversity.