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Acad Med. 2011 Jul;86(7):795-8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31821db0ab.

Commentary: criminal background checks for entering medical students: history, current issues, and future considerations.


In this commentary, the authors aim to contextualize the history and rationale for what has become the Association of American Medical Colleges-facilitated criminal background check process for entering medical students. As the process was being considered, many issues with a standardized process were identified. There were concerns that demographic or socioeconomic factors might unfairly burden certain applicants or discourage them from applying to medical school. On the other hand, a unified, national program would minimize cost and enhance quality assurance. The authors discuss these issues. Lessons learned in the first three years of the program are also addressed, including some unexpected and favorable consequences such as the identification of accepted applicants with at-risk behaviors (e.g., substance abuse), who would have otherwise gone undetected. Several challenges remain, including the fact that the criminal background check process creates an enhanced role for prehealth advisors and encourages undergraduate institutions to establish standards and processes relating to professionalism. While this is, no doubt, an evolving program which needs continued oversight and ongoing reevaluation, the authors support the continued advancement of the criminal background check process for entering medical students.

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