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Arkansas Minority Health Commission Agrees to End Race-Based Scholarship Program

The state agreed the scholarship's goal 'to help increase diversity' in the healthcare work force did not 'meet the 14th Amendment’s stringent requirement'

An Arkansas health agency has agreed to end a scholarship offered to non-White and Arab applicants.

Do No Harm filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas arguing the Arkansas Minority Health Commission had violated federal anti-discrimination laws with the race-based eligibility rules of its Minority Healthcare Workforce Diversity Scholarship

Do No Harm is an organization of medical professionals who advocate for the separation of radical, divisive, and discriminatory ideology from the healthcare industry. 

The Arkansas Minority Health Commission is a state-funded entity with the goal of ensuring “all minority Arkansans equitable access to preventive health care and to seek ways to promote health and prevent diseases and conditions that are prevalent among minority populations.” The scholarship granted “minority-raced, full or part-time college students who plan to pursue a career in the field of health” between $500 to $1,000 per academic year. 

“The goal of the scholarship is to help increase diversity in the state’s healthcare workforce, which could have positive effects on both the health of minority populations and the quality of care in Arkansas,” the state’s Department of Health said in December

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin announced on May 8 that the state had settled with the physicians’ organization.

“To resolve this matter, the Commission agreed it will no longer offer the scholarship and will not reinstate it with limitations for eligibility based on race,” Griffin said in a press release on May 8. “Do No Harm agreed to dismiss its lawsuit and pursue no other remedies against the Commission.”

Griffin continued: 

As a general matter, under the U.S. Constitution, the government cannot treat its citizens differently based on their race. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution promises all Americans equal treatment, regardless of their race. Policies departing from this fundamental principle may be upheld only if they are “narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.” In this case, although States have an interest in remedying past discrimination, the scholarship’s stated goal “to help increase diversity” does not meet the 14th Amendment’s stringent requirement and is unconstitutional.

The Minority Healthcare Workforce Diversity Scholarship was only available to applicants who could confirm they are of a racial minority, including African American, Hispanic, Native American/American Indian, Asian American or Marshallese. 

Do No Harm had asked the district court to block the Arkansas Minority Health Commission from granting any scholarships while its lawsuit was being heard by the court. Before the settlement was reached, a judge was scheduled to hear the complaint in the middle of May.

Do No Harm filed its lawsuit in April on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff who demonstrated financial need, was pursuing a pre-nursing degree and a health-related career, and met all the non-race-related criteria for the scholarship, per Fox News

“Do No Harm is pleased that the Arkansas Minority Health Commission decided to stop offering a scholarship that determined the applicants’ eligibility based on race,” said Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, Board Chair of Do No Harm, in a May 8 statement. “The scholarship program was blatantly illegal and yet another example of injecting race-based decision making into education for medical professionals.”

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