We contacted associations representing health professions schools to obtain data about each profession for the years 1990–2000. Data were obtained from the following organizations: American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Dental Education Association, Association of Schools of Public Health, California Postsecondary Education Commission, and the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University.

We requested unduplicated national counts of the number of applicants, acceptances, matriculants, and graduates for each year for each type of professional school. To evaluate the possible effects of the Proposition 209 and Hopwood v. Texas policies, we also requested information separately for California and Texas schools for each of these data elements. Many associations were unable to provide national or state data for some or all of the requested elements; in these instances, we relied on less optimal data such as number of total enrollees rather than number of new matriculants. Additionally, data were not always available for all the years requested. We did not examine retention rates in health professions schools because data on progression of students from matriculation through graduation were not available for most professions.

We defined URMs as African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Some educational organizations use more restrictive definitions of URMs (e.g., include only certain subgroups of Latinos). However, we considered Latinos as a whole to be underrepresented and many organizations have data only for Latinos in the aggregate and not for specific subgroups.


URM trends in matriculants and enrollees over the past decade differ across the health professions (Figure 1). Nursing, public health, and pharmacy have seen a modest but steady rise in the proportion of matriculants and enrollees who are URMs. Other professions, such as allopathic and osteopathic medicine, experienced initial increases followed by decreases in the late 1990s. Dentistry, in contrast, is a profession with a steady decrease in the proportion of URM matriculants over the entire decade. All health professions fall well short of “population parity” measured against the proportion of URMs in the overall U.S. population; according to 2000 U.S. Census data, African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians constitute 25% of the U.S. population.i

The number of URMs matriculating is a function of three components: the number of URMs applying, the proportion of URM applicants accepted, and the proportion of the accepted students who matriculate. These dynamics differ for each profession in producing the patterns shown in Figure 1.

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