The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is delighted with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to let stand the critically important principle of diversity within institutions of higher education. In its much-awaited decision in Fisher v. the University of Texas, the Court held that a lower court did not use the correct standard to consider the case and sent the case back to that court. For now, this leaves intact the current state of the law, which grants that diversity within the student body is a compelling interest for colleges and other institutions of higher education.
“Providing access to higher education for all students, and encouraging diversity within health careers, are critical to the health and well-being of all New Mexicans,” said Dr. Valerie Romero-Leggott, Vice Chancellor for Diversity at the UNM Health Sciences Center. “Diversity in thinking, race and ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomics and life experiences, as well as other factors, enriches our academic programs and is critical to the quality of education for all students, and to the strength of America’s democracy and economic health.”
The UNM Health Sciences Center has long been committed to diversity within the student body, faculty, other learners and staff in order to promote excellence, innovation, health equity and better outcomes while creating a diverse health sciences workforce that reflects the diversity of New Mexico’s population. The HSC promotes diversity and inclusion through external and internal partnerships and collaborations on a wide range of programs and initiatives, including student pipeline programs and mentoring, leadership and educational initiatives to support a diverse faculty, staff and learners.
“The HSC remains committed to expanding access to and opportunities in higher education for learners of all backgrounds as we prepare the future workforce to serve and succeed in a diversesociety,” said Dr. Romero-‐Leggott. “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed its support for these principles in today’s ruling.”
Thirty two of New Mexico’s 33 counties are designated as “Health Professional Shortage Areas” because they do not have enough health professionals to serve the population. This is the case with regard to all health professions, including nursing, pharmacy, mental health professionals and others.
“We are cognizant of applicant attributes that indicate a strong motivation to practice in rural and underserved areas of the state,” said Dr. Romero-Leggott, adding that studies show that minority health professionals are more likely to serve minority and underserved communities compared to their non-minority colleagues. “It is UNM HSC’s responsibility to address thischallenge by selecting students who are most likely to train in areas of current need and to remain in or return to New Mexico to serve our population.”
In addition, as noted in the UNM School of Medicine’s admissions policy statement, diversity benefits all students throughout the Health Sciences Center and UNM by creating a dynamic, productive, and positive learning environment in the classroom through the promotion of cross-cultural and cross-racial understanding. Skills obtained in a classroom that tackle such issues are critical in today’s global and increasingly diverse society.