Black Students’ Perception of Belonging: A Focus Group Approach with Black Students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Background: Finding that enrollment of Underrepresented in Medicine students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences was considerably below the national average, researchers sought to understand the experiences of minority students. The goal is to develop an academic and social support structure that sustains and attracts students of diverse backgrounds and races.
Methods: Individual interviews of eight matriculated Black medical students and a focus group were conducted, with Institutional Review Board approval, to obtain feasible methodologies and implement change. Student's perspectives and experiences regarding their institution were investigated using qualitative thematic analysis.
Results: The analysis revealed six themes from the individual interviews: Experience as a minority; Admission process; Difference in backgrounds; Curriculum culture; Diversity at the school; Military medicine. The overarching message from the students was “If you don’t see yourself represented somewhere, it’s hard to believe that you belong.” The focus group made four recommendations: Add a minority viewpoint to curriculum; Add textbooks that portray black skin; Collaborate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Increase recruitment of Black students and faculty.
Conclusion: It is hard for minority students to believe they belong in environments without the representation and infrastructure needed to support their unique needs. Implementing ideas, such as those described in this report, is an important step towards creating inclusion and equity.
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Association of American Medical Colleges. Total U.S. Medical School Enrollment. https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2020-11/2020_FACTS_Table_B-3.pdf. Last updated November 3, 2020; cited Nov 3, 2020.
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