While still severely underrepresented, racial minorities are making healthy gains in medical school enrollments, according to recent study showing minorities closing the gap.
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American Indians and Alaska Natives made the most gains this year after seeing a slight dip in 2011, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit that represents all 150 accredited medical schools in the U.S. and Canada.
Enrollment for this relatively small population increased by 11.9 percent to 430 aspiring doctors, from last year's 379. American Indians and Alaska Natives account for only 0.9 percent of 2012 medical school students and 1.7 percent of the total U.S. population.
David Baines, a physician and member of the Tlingit and Tsimshian tribes, describes the culture shock of moving from his reservation in Alaska to the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., the Native American Times reported. He credits student and professional organizations, such as the Association of Native American Medical Students, with helping him succeed.
"Growing up in an isolated reservation in Alaska, going to medical school was a big shock, especially culturally," he recalls. "I was very isolated as the first and only American Indian or Alaska Native student at Mayo Medical School."