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University’s ‘diversity in surgery’ internship requires applicant photos — racial bias allegations spark DOE investigation

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Photo by Alyssa Schukar for the Washington Post via Getty Images

Following a complaint submitted by the watchdog group Do No Harm, the Department of Education recently launched an investigation into a prominent Chicago medical school’s internship program that requires applicants to submit a photograph of themselves.

Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Department of Surgery offers “an annual Diversity in Surgery Visiting Sub-Internship Program,” according to its website. The four-week program was created to encourage “students from racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented” in the medical industry to consider a career in surgery.

To be eligible for the university’s annual internship, students must be “African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, [or] Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.” Students are also required to submit a photo of themselves with their application.

Laura Morgan, the program manager for Do No Harm, filed a complaint with the DOE in August 2022, accusing the university’s internship program of “discrimination on the basis of race in programs that receive federal financial assistance in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Morgan argued that the internship requirements illegally discriminate against student applicants.

On January 19, Morgan received a response from the DOE’s supervisory attorney Marcela Sanchez Aguilar, who stated that it would investigate the university for possible civil rights violations.

“[Office of Civil Rights] can confirm that there is an open investigation into Loyola University – Stritch School of Medicine under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” a DOE spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We do not comment on open investigations.”

Mark Perry, Do No Harm senior fellow and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, told the DCNF, “It is a clear violation of Title VI that Loyola University is illegally excluding and discriminating against certain medical students and denying them educational opportunities, surgical mentorship, networking, and scholarships on the basis of their race, color, or national origin that are being offered exclusively to Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.”

Perry stated that Do No Harm’s research has uncovered that “almost every” medical school in the United States illegally discriminates against students based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, or national origin. He noted that the watchdog organization had filed more than 50 complaints in the last year against U.S. medical schools.

“Loyola Medical School’s discrimination is representative of the illegal discrimination taking place at almost every US medical school on the basis of race, color, or national origin. This is just one more disappointing example of dozens of medical schools either being cluelessly unaware that this type of discrimination is illegal or they are instead inexcusably unconcerned about violating the civil rights of certain groups of students (white, Asian, and Middle Eastern students),” Perry continued.

Loyola University Chicago did not respond to a request for comment, the DCNF reported.

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