Exceeding Expectations: Underrepresented Minorities in Medicine at University of Utah Health

Carolyn Bliss, PhD, Nora Wood, PhD, Mike Martineau, PhD, Kathryn Browning-Hawes, BS, Ana María López, MD, MPH, FACP, José E. Rodríguez, MD, FAAFP


Problem: The University of Utah (UU) serves an increasingly diverse state and houses the only public medical school, dental school, and college of pharmacy in the state, as well as a college of nursing and health.  Like most states, Utah’s diversity in the health professions lags behind the diversity of its general population.

Approach:  This paper describes the Health Sciences Learning, Engagement, Achievement and Progress (HS-LEAP) Program, a 4-year undergraduate pipeline program intended to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health professions, specifically focused on, but not limited to, underrepresented minorities in medicine (URMM). Self-identified demographics were submitted by each student at the time of enrollment. Students are followed to successful engagement in their profession of choice.  Graduation and post-graduation outcomes were compared to non-HS LEAP students at the UU.

Outcomes: Almost 600 students have participated in HS-LEAP. HS-LEAP students are 40% Latinx, 7% black, 3% American Indian/Alaskan Native and 30% Asian and 1% Pacific Islander. HS-LEAP students had lower ACT scores (67% below 23) on admission and higher grade point averages (GPAs) (+0.44, p<0.05) in their first semester, higher fall to fall first-year retention rates (+16.8%) and higher 6-year graduation rates (+11%) when compared to non-LEAP UU students. Forty percent of students of color that participated in HS LEAP went to graduate school. Fifteen percent of HS LEAP participants have completed graduate school with 63% becoming health professionals.

Next Steps: The HS-LEAP program is changing to accommodate changing student needs, as well as medical and professional school requirements, seeking external funding and implementing GPA targets. In collaboration with professional programs, holistic admissions are constantly being improved to greater diversify the student body in our professional schools.


José E. Rodríguez, MD

Interim Associate Vice President for Health Equity & Inclusion

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