How Can Affirmative Action Help Healthcare?


Photo courtesy of (

Human Resources takes on a plethora of tasks within a healthcare system. Duties range from recruitment and retention to credentialing. Often, one overlooks the many employment laws that HR has to comprehend and abide by. Many of these employment laws include Consumer Credit Protection Act (Title III), Equal Pay Act of 1963, and Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, just to name a few. These laws have been passed over the years to ensure that employees have a level playing field when interacting with employers, but even with the passing of these laws, there are still some gray areas and misinterpretations.

Affirmative Action is an executive order that was passed that stated federal contractors are required to “take affirmative action to recruit and advance qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans” (Department of Labor, 2017). Healthcare systems must abide by the law and update their affirmative action strategy in order to continue to receive federal funding.

Affirmative action is often confused with meeting a quota in order to become a more diverse organization, but that is far from the truth. Although HR is often tasked with expanding diversity within a health system, quotas do not benefit the health system in the long run. HR’s main goal is to acquire the highest quality of talent which will increase profits and performance for the company overall. The goal of affirmative action is to give certain groups an equal opportunity for employment regardless of their race, creed, or sexuality.

The diversity within the health field has long shown to have effects on the population that health systems serve. Sassi, Carrier, and Weinberg (2014) state that a lack of diversity decreases the distribution of health care to ethnic minorities. It has been noted that people respond better to physicians that look like them, and the quality of care is often rated higher as well. Affirmative action was intended to help organizations reflect the diversity of the population, but according to Sassi, Carrier, and Weinberg (2014), that is not the case. Health disparities still vary between ethnicities, especially minorities.

Going forward, HR may seek to work closely with medical school recruitment teams in order to increase the diversity of new physicians coming into the job market. There are benefits to collaborating with other schools that develop other health professionals such as nurses, technicians, and assistants. Affirmative action must be present on all levels in the medical field to be effective. Cohen, Gabriel, and Terrell (2002) all agree that “interventions to improve diversity begins long before medical school.” Let’s use affirmative action to our advantage to benefit those that we serve, the patients.

Cohen JJ, Gabriel BA, Terrell C. The case for diversity in the healthcare workforce. Health Aff (Millwood). 2002;21(5):90-102

“Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).” N.p., 2017. Web. 29 Jan. 2017

Sassi, F., Carrier, J., & Weinberg, J. (2004). Affirmative action: the lessons for health care: Governments are becoming more assertive about reducing ethnic inequalities. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 328(7450), 1213–1214.


4 thoughts on “How Can Affirmative Action Help Healthcare?

  1. Well-stated perspective. Have you found any examples of hospitals successfully partnering with medical schools (and colleges) to encourage diversity?


  2. You mentioned in your post that better recruitment practices could potentially solve some of the concerns with diversity in the medical field. In fact, one of your sources stated that addressing the diversity issue should occur prior to medical school. Magnolia Coastlands Area Health Education Center is one of our local resources whose mission is “To support the recruitment, education, training, and retention of a diverse health professions workforce throughout our 39 county service area in southeast Georgia” (Magnolia Coastlands AHEC, 2014). Introducing healthcare professions to individuals of various backgrounds while they are still impressionable is a great way to ensure a diverse workforce of the future.

    However, what happens when the time comes for students to apply to medical school or any other allied health profession and most minorities do not meet the academic requirements? Marc Nivet, EdD, chief diversity officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges stated, “Test scores alone do not provide sufficient information about character, disposition or other traits such as empathy and potential for professionalism. Medicine, above all else, is a healing profession, and thus the acceptance to medical school is a privilege, not a right. Ensuring we have students from all walks of life … is part of our responsibility to ensure we have a physician work force [in the] best position to improve the health of all” (American Medical News, 2012).

    This paradigm reminds me of when I applied for the Radiologic Technology program several years ago; at that time, we underwent an extensive interview process. Although academic scores were evaluated as well, they were not the sole factor in the decision-making process for acceptance into the program. I feel that this architype would make an impact on ensuring a diverse workforce of the future that could end racial and ethnic health care disparities.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find this topic to be rather interesting especially when we think about how it could affect us one day. There are many obstacles that we face looking for our internships and later our career jobs. Kim and I may face discrimination as a woman while Julius and Carla are both minorities so we can all find this topic to be challenging. You would think a qualified woman seeking a position in a healthcare system would have no problem obtaining a job, but the fact that she is black, pretty, and a veteran who suffers from PTSD could determine her fate otherwise. These are very important issues that we need to overcome so that all races, genders, veterans and disabled people are treated equally especially when they are qualified for a position.
    According to Heron (2013), the shortage of physicians affects blacks and Hispanic physicians of color the most because the percentage of black and Hispanic physicians of color admitted to medical school has had a minimal change in the past 30 years. It is imperative that affirmative action remains a strong policy in an attempt to fill the physician shortage with minorities who have a passion for medicine.

    There are affirmative actions programs in universities that propose actions and consequences for not following the policy. According to Curtis (2017), if the student body reveals a pattern of minority misrepresentation, despite the presence of a qualified minority applicant pool, the institution is subject to losing federal funds and would be required by law to draw up an affirmative action plan. Having affirmative action plans and successfully following these plans can help shape the future of diversity in health care and close the shortage physicians.

    Curtis, James. (2017). Retrieved 31 January 2017, from


  4. Julius, you make great points, and I agree we need affirmative action for diversity and for the people we serve, patients. I read an article by Perry (2016) which stated that in 2015, black applicants that had an average GPA (3.4-3.59) and MCAT (27-29) were 2.8 times more likely to gain acceptance than white applicants. Hispanic applicants for that year also displayed similar trends. From this data, it’s safe to say, there is a black and Hispanic preference for medical school applicants.

    Regarding your statement about patients responding better to physicians who are like them: Sheryl Heron, the first ever black female physician to be hired as faculty at Grady Memorial Hospital, says she has a great deal of effect on her patients: 85% of whom are black (Heron, 2013).

    On the AAMC website, there is a section for minorities in medicine, with information about pre-medical and dental school summer programs and scholarships for minorities. In undergrad, I applied for a summer program for minorities interested in medicine and dentistry, and I got accepted. I didn’t end up going, but had I, I would’ve been given housing and a stipend for living expenses. They also provided MCAT and biochemistry reviews, along with shadows doctors at the Medical College of Georgia. From my personal experience, I think affirmative action is working hard to close the gap of diversity in healthcare.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s