Duke School of Medicine denies lowering admissions standards for DEI goals as alleged by Ben Shapiro, Elon Musk

Duke Health released a statement Tuesday responding to recent allegations that the School of Medicine had lowered its admissions standards as part of its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

The allegations began in late February when conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro posted a thread on X that included a video of Duke surgical resident Vignesh Raman saying that the School of Medicine was “transitioning to a completely holistic review process” and “abandoning all sorts of metrics and screens.”

“Duke University’s School of Medicine has not lowered its standards for medical school admission or graduation, and continues to rely on GPA and MCAT scores, among other criteria,” the Duke Health statement read. “Achieving health equity while recruiting diverse talent within our education and training programs allows us to deliver the highest quality care to our patients and makes Duke a world leader in innovative and transformative research.”

Sarah Avery, director of the Duke Health News Office, declined to provide additional comment Wednesday afternoon on whether Raman’s claims were true and how Duke Health’s hiring and admissions processes have changed in recent years. Avery instead referred back to the statement “from Duke University School of Medicine officials” and noted that Raman was not available for comment.

Shapiro’s allegations were recently repeated by billionaire Elon Musk, who replied to Shapiro's thread that “people will die because of this," referring to the alleged new standards. In a recent interview with former CNN host Don Lemon, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO said that “they have literally lowered the standards at Duke University” in an exchange on whether DEI policies in medicine harm patients.

The allegations have also drawn attention from members of Congress representing North Carolina. Rep. Dan Bishop, the current 2024 Republican nominee for N.C. attorney general, wrote that “the law on this is very clear, and it will be enforced” in response to a question on X about whether the alleged practices were a civil rights violation.

“DEI in medicine puts innocent lives at risk,” Bishop wrote in a separate post. “When I’m AG, this blatant racial discrimination will not be tolerated.”

Rep. Greg Murphy, who represents the third district of North Carolina, introduced a bill Tuesday that would “ban race-based mandates at medical schools and accrediting institutions.” 

“Duke’s attempt to obliterate a fair and colorblind admissions process to hurt white, male applicants is repulsive. This is not art school for goodness’ sake,” Murphy told Shapiro. “Lives are on the line in operating rooms, hospitals, and clinics. Color and gender have absolutely nothing to do with the ability to successfully diagnose and treat patients. Such an attempt to inject this notion into medicine is beyond sinister. My bill will put an end to this nonsense once and for all.”

In Shapiro’s original thread, two edited videos of Raman are shown. In the first, Raman speaks about Duke’s position treating patients “in the South,” saying that his “heart sinks every time I go into a room and I watch them watching Fox News, or they have a MAGA hat on, or they’re wearing a confederate belt.”

The second video shows Raman explaining how, following the 2020 George Floyd protests, Duke and the Department of Surgery learned they had to contend with their histories and the “walls of white men that are draped across our hallways.” Raman said they realized “something should change within ourselves and in who comprises this department, in terms of the faculty, in terms of the residents.” 

“The most important thing we’ve done is, really, systemic changes to our recruitment process to try to recruit diverse residents to our program and then to retain and support those diverse residents after they get to our program,” Raman said later in the video. “So part of this has involved transitioning to [a] completely holistic review process that we spoke about earlier today — abandoning all sort of metrics and screens, looking at people’s life story and what brought them into surgery. And then, the other part of it is increasing the diversity of the people who read the application, because that’s an important component of ensuring that we get diverse residents into our program.”

Beyond the videos of Raman, Shapiro does not provide further evidence of lowered standards at the School of Medicine. 

From 2019 to 2023, the School of Medicine experienced a slight decline in the proportion of white faculty members, which was offset by a two-percentage-point rise in Asian faculty members and small increases in the percentages of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino faculty members.

That same time period also saw a small decrease in the percentage of the school’s white staff due to small increases in the percentages of Asian and Hispanic/Latino staff. The health professions student population also increased by over 250 during this period, with the percentage of white and Asian students decreasing and the percentage of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino students increasing.

Jazper Lu profile
Jazper Lu | Managing Editor

Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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