Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) medical students – an examination of their journey and experiences as medical students in limbo

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Abstract

Background: Although the value of DACA medical students has been hypothesized, no data are available on their contribution to US healthcare. While the exact number of DACA recipients in medical school is unknown, DACA medical students are projected to represent an increasing proportion of physicians in the future. The current literature on DACA students has not analyzed the experiences of these students. Methods: A mixed-methods study on the career intentions and experiences of DACA medical students was performed utilizing survey data and in-depth interviews. The academic performance of a convenience sample of DACA medical students was compared to that of matriculated medical students from corresponding medical schools, national averages, and first-year residents according to specialty. Results: Thirty-three DACA medical students completed the survey and five participated in a qualitative interview. The average undergraduate GPA (SD) of the DACA medical student sample was 3.7 (0.3), the same as the national GPA of 2017–2018 matriculated medical students. The most common intended residency programs were Internal Medicine (27.2%), Emergency Medicine (15.2%), and Family Medicine (9.1%). In interviews, DACA students discussed their motivation for pursuing medicine, barriers and facilitators that they faced in attending medical school, their experiences as medical students, and their future plans. Conclusions: The intent of this sample to pursue medical specialties in which there is a growing need further exemplifies the unique value of these students. It is vital to protect the status of DACA recipients and realize the contributions that DACA physicians provide to US healthcare.

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Gillezeau, C., Lieberman-Cribbin, W., Bevilacqua, K., Ramos, J., Alpert, N., Flores, R., … Taioli, E. (2021). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) medical students – an examination of their journey and experiences as medical students in limbo. BMC Medical Education, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-021-02787-5

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