Most of the minority students admitted to the University of California medical school here under a controversial special admissions program were able to compete satisfactorily with students admitted under the regular admission program.
Of the 16 students admitted in the "Task Force" program in 1973, the year Allan Bakke was first denied admission to the Davis medical school, 13 completed their studies, passed their examinations and are now interning at various hospitals, most of them in California.
Two students were required to repeat a year of their classroom work and are expected to graduate in 1978. One student was dropped from the program.
The university has been reluctant to supply any information about the Task Force students while Bakke's lawsuit alleging reverdr the discrimination is pending before the Supreme Court. However, Donald H. Reidhaar, the chief counsel for the university, did confirm the 13-of-16 figure, which was obtained from university sources.
The university supplied no information on the success rate of students admitted under the regular program. A national study by Charles E. Odegaard. "Minorities in Medicine, shows that 85.0 per cent blacks and 86.1 per cent of Mexican-Americans were prompted with their medical classes in 1974-75 compare with 98.8 per cent of all other students.
Reidhar and members of the medical faculty who were interviewed at Davis believe that the 13-of-16 rate (81.2 per cent) speaks well of the program, particularly if the original academic differences between the two groups are taken into account.
The undergraduate grade point average of the 16 Task Force students admitted in 1973 was 2.88 compared with a 3.49 average for the 34 students admitted on the regular program. The Medical College Admissions Test showed an even wider difference, with the special admittees averaging 35 in science and 33 in general information compared to 83 in science and 69 in general information for the students under the regualr program.
Bakke was higher than both groups, with a grade point average of 3.51 and science and general information scores of 97 and 72, respectively.
Dr. Theodore H. West, the coordinator of medical learning resources at the medical school in the early 1970s, says the academic differences between the Task Force students and the other students narrowed rapidly in the medical school.
"It appears that they either caught up rapidly or that they were more competent than the admissions scores showed," Weest said.
West conducted two studies of Task Force students, one of the class admitted in 1973. He agreed to discuss them only in generalized ways without going into the actual scores.
What the study showed, said West, is that minority students admitted under the special program had some initial difficulties but quickly closed the gap. The differences between the two groups became even narrower in the final two years of medical school study, which are devoted to clinical work.
Dr. George H. Lowrey, formerly in charge of medical admissions at the school, belives that the program has worked well.
"To be perfectly honest, there are a large number of Task Force students who had a harder time, but you'd expect this to happen," Lowrey said, "The Task Force students did superbly well in clinical work."
Lowrey says it is too early to determine whether Task Force has succedded in providing more doctors where they are most needed. Student graduated from the first Task Force class, which entered in 1970, have obly recently completed their residencies.
"We have unquestionably produced role models for the other minority students," says Lowrey, now a professor of pediatrics at the medical school."How many are going to go back and practice among minority groups I don't know."
Fourteen of the graduating students in the 1975 class, seven of them from the Task Force program and seven from the regular class, were interviewed by The Washington Post. All agreed that there was no significant difference in medical school perforance between the minority students and others after the first year.
"We weren't given special examinations or special classes or tutouring once we were admitted," says Dr. Nathan Hale Allen, and intern in obstetrics and gyecology at Martin Luther King Hospital in the largely black community of Compton. "We had to pass to same exams and we were scored by the same computers."
The most coveted graduation award at Davis is the senior class award, given by the graduating class to the student who has demonstrated in his clinical work the qualities most likely to produce an outstanding physician. In 1976 this award went to a black who was one of the Task Force students, Orel Knight.
Knight, now an intern in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California Medical Center, says he intends eventually to practice "in some deprived community."
One of the most articulte Task Force students in the graduating class of 1975 is Dr. Toni Johnson-Chavis, a black who met and married another Task Force student during medical school.
She went to Compton High School in Lost Angeles County and recall inadequate or nonexistent laboratories and hand-me-down books from Beverly Hills High School. She did not learn to use a slide rule until she was admitteed to Stanford, where she made a grade point average of 3.5.
Johnson-Chavis, now an intern in pediatrics at USC medical center, says she and three other Task Force students set up a weight-reduction clinic in Del Paso Heights, a Sacramento area with many black residents. It turned out that more poor whites than blacks used the clinic, she says, but the blacks were never able to enlist white students to help them.
"One of the students told it to me straight," she recalled. "He told me he wanted a nice Wilshire Avenue [a well-to-do area in Los Angeles county] practice and didn't want to bothered with poor people, white or black."
The university has never made any figures available on the economic-backgrounds of any of the medical students. But Reidhaar said that all 16 of the Task Force students had received financial assistance under various programs.
The normal yardstick for financial assistance at California universities is a combined parental income of $10,000 or less although a number of factors, such as indebtness, are taken into account.
Dr. Allen says he accumulated debts of $23,000 during his medical school education. Allen says his family is poor and that his family often has been unemployed.
Dr. Johnson-Chavis is the daughter of a man who has worked for the Santa Fe railroad for 27 years, starting as a waiter and eventually becoming a librarian. Her mother now teaches in a Head Start program.
A number of Mexican-Americans were admitted under Task Force. Most described themselves as "middle-class" people in contrast to the well-off "upper middle class" students they say are admitted under the regular programs.
Dr. James Mendez, an intern at the Valley Medical Center in Fresno, believes he couldn't have made it into a medical school without an affirmative action program.
"It allowed a lot of different kinda of people into the medical school who wouldn't have normally gotten a chance" says Mendez. ". . . We were middle-class people who wanted to get into the American mainstream, to get ahead, to make the American dream come true."
Like many of the students admitted under the special program, Mendez describes himself as "antagonistic" to Bakke and what he is trying to accomplish. If Bakke succeeds, says Mendez, the medical schools "will go back to being what they were before - an all-white enclave."
Dr. Henry Gonzalez, also an intern at Valley Medical Center, was offered admission under the Task Force program but passed regular admissions, too. He says he gave up his Task Force place "to open up an extra slot."
Gonzalez is sympathetic to Bakke but believes that some sort of affirmative action program is necessary. His father was a bricklayer, and Gonzalez lives in a rundown East Menlo Park neighborhood 15 miles south of San Francisco.
"I came from a school that was so bad that when eight of us wanted to take physics, we had to be bused out," he says. "I'm te first person in my family ever to go to college."
Whatever their feelings about Bakke, all of the Task Force students and six of the seven regular admissions students interviewed said that some continuing special program is necessary.
"I don't think Bakke should be a physician at the cost of one of us," says Nathan Hale Allen. "We're not talking just about one person's personal goals. We're talking about the well-being of people and of a society.