Equitable Admissions for Black Applicants

Equitable Admissions for Black Applicants

The BHSc (Hons) Program announces the launch of a pilot project for Equitable Admissions for Black Applicants (EABA), starting with the current application cycle for entrance to BHSc in Fall 2021.

“Being an accessible, supportive, and inclusive community is really important to us,” says Stacey Ritz, Assistant Dean of the BHSc (Hons) Program.  “This initiative is one of the concrete ways we can enact our commitment to equity and inclusion, and to anti-racist praxis in our community.”

Applicants who self-identify as Black will be able to opt into the EABA process starting in late January.  The admissions requirements and GPA cutoffs are the same for the EABA stream as in the general applicant pool, and applicants must also submit the mandatory supplementary application.  The principal difference in the EABA process is that the supplementary applications will be scored by a panel of Black faculty, alumni, and students, as a mechanism for mitigating potential conscious or unconscious bias in evaluation.

Earlier this year, Black students in the BHSc (Hons) Program formed the Black BHSc Association, and noted that there are fewer than 15 Black-identifying students within the program in total — less than 2% of the class size.  “The Black BHSc Association is very strongly in favour” of the new process, saying that it “will afford Black applicants the opportunity to identify themselves as Black, and have their application reviewed by a panel of Black educators, alumni, and students, to minimize the impact of subconscious biases that may disadvantage Black applicants.”  Since future health researchers, health care professionals, and policy-makers must serve the needs of diverse communities, including Black communities, the students of the Black BHSc Association highlight the importance of “increasing the diversity of thought and race amongst health professionals in Canada” in order to serve these needs and promote health equity.

Aka Nwakoby

“This will definitely help to increase the pipeline of exceptional Black health scholars and innovators,” says Akachukwu Nwakoby, BHSc Class of 2020 and FHS Valedictorian.  “Many members of our Black communities face pervasive and unique health inequalities, and the solutions to these problems will come from bright young minds of our generation from all walks of life — especially those who may have first-hand experience of the shortfalls of our current health systems.”

The FHS Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee (EDIAC) also offers its enthusiastic support for the EABA process.  “This initiative represents an important step to ensuring future leaders within our health system and society reflect the diversity of our Canadian population,” said EDIAC’s co-Chairs Naomi Thulien and Brenda Vrkljan.

“Our continuing rise in educational excellence depends on ensuring we are inclusive of all in our Canadian community,” said Paul O’Byrne, Dean and Vice-President of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “I’d like to congratulate the BHSc (Hons) program on establishing a pilot project for an admissions pathway for Black applicants, and I know several of our other programs are following suit.”

“The EABA is just one of the initiatives we have been pursuing in recent months to contribute to McMaster’s efforts to address structural racism,” says Ritz.  “Back in June, I committed BHSc to implement 3 key actions in the short term. I’m very pleased to say those have all been accomplished.”  One of those commitments is the launch of a new course on racism and health (HTHSCI 3RH3 – Racism, & Health), which will be offered in the 2021-22 academic year.

Ritz also indicates that the BHSc (Hons) Program is working with McMaster’s Access Strategy office, which provides outreach and support to encourage academically qualified students from underrepresented groups in Hamilton and surrounding communities to access university education at the undergraduate level.  The Program also continues to pursue other ways to promote equity in the BHSc Program.

Iku Nwosu (pictured, top), a BHSc grad from the Class of 2018 says “I think that BHSc is truly showing that representation matters to them…I really think that for me, seeing that this is happening in BHSc makes me feel very seen, very heard, and why I’m so proud to be a BHSc alumnus.”

More information about the EABA can be found on the BHSc website, along with information about the Facilitated Indigenous Application Process (FIAP) which has been in place in the Faculty of Health Sciences for several years.