Medical Students See Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in Health Care System

Assessing medical students' knowledge and attitudes of health care access issues

In 2002, researchers at the American Medical Student Association conducted a survey of a national sample of first- and fourth-year medical students that revealed that a majority believe that the U.S. health care system treats people unfairly based on their racial or ethnic background, insurance status, income and native language.

The survey asked students about their knowledge and attitudes about health care delivery and problems with access to health care, including those related to race and ethnicity.

The American Medical Student Association is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States.

Key Findings: The researchers reported these findings and others in posters presented by principal investigator Huebner at the 2003 American Medical Student Association Convention:

  • Majorities of both first and fourth-year students believe that the U.S. health care system treats people unfairly based on their:
    • Racial or ethnic background (59.7% of first-year and 50.5% of fourth-year students).
    • Insurance status (84.7% of first-years and 76.9% of fourth-years).
    • Income (77.4% of first-years and 60.5% of fourth-years).
    • Native language (80.7% of first-years and 72.2% of fourth-years).
  • A majority (50.3%) of first-year medical students believes that racial and ethnic background affects an individual's ability to get routine medical care, but only 39.9 percent of fourth-year students agree.
  • Nearly 90 percent of both first and fourth-year students believe that health care is a right.

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