The Dean of UCLA Medical School Says It Does Not Discriminate Based on Race. His Own Research Center Runs a Minorities-Only Fellowship.

The ‘iDIVERSE’ program bars white and Asian researchers from applying.

L: UCLA Campus (Twitter) R: UCLA Medical School Dean Steven Dubinett (UCLA Health)
May 31, 2024

The University of California, Los Angeles, medical school was hit last week with whistleblower allegations that its admissions office has for years discriminated on the basis of race, in violation of California law, by holding black and Latino applicants to lower standards than their white and Asian counterparts.

The allegations triggered an email message from the dean of the medical school, Steven Dubinett, who denied the claims and said that students and faculty "are held to the highest standards of academic excellence." He subsequently told an obscure Los Angeles Times opinion columnist that the allegations, published in the Washington Free Beacon, are "fact-free."

Hiring and admissions decisions, he wrote in his message last week, are "based on merit," not race, "in a process consistent with state and federal law."

But Dubinett himself directs a center within the medical school, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, that houses a race-based fellowship experts say is illegal.

Participants in the "iDIVERSE" program "must be" black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, LGBT, or a woman, according to screenshots of a now-deleted webpage obtained by the Free Beacon. Fellows research ways to increase diversity in clinical trials as part of a study funded by Pfizer, the American Heart Association, and Gates Ventures, the personal LLC of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The website indicates that the deadline to apply to the program, which has existed for two years, was March 1.

"This is obviously illegal," said Adam Mortara, the lead trial lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions in its lawsuit against Harvard, which led to the Supreme Court decision last year that outlawed affirmative action. "Every time we sue a company or institution for doing this, they settle by ending the program."

Dubinett and UCLA medical school did not respond to requests for comment.

The program is an awkward albatross for a school that spent Memorial Day weekend doing damage control after a Free Beacon report showed that record numbers of UCLA medical students are failing basic tests of clinical knowledge—in part, admissions officers said, because standards have been lowered by affirmative action.

On Saturday, a fourth-year student posted data on X, formerly Twitter, that he claimed had been released internally to refute that report. Though the new data showed that students did better on a recent round of tests, known as shelf exams, than some other cohorts, UCLA has not addressed the rise in failure rates over time or the fact that nearly a quarter of students in the class of 2025 failed three or more shelf exams.

Nor has it explained how the percentage of Asian matriculants shrunk by almost 50 percent since 2018, with most of the drop occurring after a new dean of admissions, Jennifer Lucero was hired in 2020. That decline coincided with a sharp increase in the number of students who come from "medically under-served" areas or identify as "disadvantaged"—indicators that admissions officials say are being used as proxies for race.

Matriculants from under-served areas nearly doubled as a percentage of the incoming class after Lucero took the helm in 2020, rising steadily from 34 to 56 percent of first-year students over four years, per data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The number of first-year students indicating disadvantage likewise rose by nearly 60 percent, from 42 percent in 2020 to 67 percent in 2023. No other elite medical school has come close to these numbers, according to a review of AAMC data for the top 20 schools on U.S News & World Report’s rankings for medical research.

While the trends don’t provide proof of discrimination, they are consistent with the accounts of racial gerrymandering from UCLA admissions officers. Lucero has allegedly told officials that the class should reflect the "diversity" of California, where racial preferences have been illegal since 1996, and has attacked those who raise concerns about minority candidates with low test scores. She even made the entire admissions committee sit through a two-hour presentation on Native American history after a Native American applicant was rejected, three sources said.

Together with the iDIVERSE fellowship, which launched in 2022 and involves partnerships with other institutions, the accounts paint a picture of a medical school suffused with racial preferences and determined to skirt civil rights law by any means necessary. They come as the medical school is reviewing its entire first-year curriculum in the wake of a separate Free Beacon report on a required course, "Structural Racism and Health Equity," in which students learn that weight loss is a "hopeless endeavor."

That course also hosted a guest speaker, Lisa Gray-Garcia, who has referred to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks as "justice" and led students in chants of "free, free Palestine." Days later, two residents in the medical school’s psychiatry program delivered a talk that glorified self-immolation as a form of "resistance" in the context of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Both incidents were cited in a congressional probe of UCLA’s response to anti-Semitism—another ongoing controversy. At a hearing on Capitol Hill this month, UCLA chancellor Gene Block said the medical school was investigating Gray-Garcia’s talk but offered no further details on the review.

The whistleblower allegations are not the first admissions scandal to hit UCLA. In 2021, a former soccer coach was sentenced to eight months in prison after he helped two applicants pose as athletic recruits so they would be accepted to the university.