The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston enrolls a much larger percentage of underrepresented minority students (25% compared to 15% nationally). Despite the success at recruiting a diverse student body, the medical school was not as accomplished in helping those students achieve. Only 2.9% of non-URM students failed the USMLE step 1 exam, but 16.6% of URM students failed.
In a study published in Medical Education, professors at Galveston report how they were able to boost those numbers so that 1.9% of non-URM students failed the exam and only 3.9% of URM students.
They implemented a wide-ranging rethinking of the curriculum, replacing a traditional memorization model with integrated learning. They incorporated problem-based learning and greater interaction with faculty. At the same time, the school invested in faculty development resources to equip teachers with skills in assessment and pedagogy.
The transformation did not happen overnight. The findings emerged from a comparison of students who matriculated between 1995-1997 and those who started between 2003-2005. But their experience shows how an institutional effort to improve learner outcomes can make a difference.