How organizational culture influences holistic review: a qualitative multiple case study

Bettie Coplan, Bronwynne C. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Studies primarily involving single health professions programs suggest that holistic review in admissions can increase underrepresented minority (URM) representation among admitted students. However, data showing little improvement in the overall proportion of URMs in many health professions, despite widespread use of holistic review, suggest that relatively few programs using holistic review admit substantial proportions of underrepresented minorities. Therefore, more research is needed to understand factors that facilitate holistic review practices that successfully promote diverse student enrollment. The literature suggests that a supportive organizational culture is necessary for holistic review to be effective; yet, the influence of culture on admissions has not been directly studied. This study employs a qualitative, multiple case study approach to explore the influence of a culture that values diversity and inclusion (‘diversity culture’) on holistic review practices in two physician assistant educational programs that met criteria consistent with a proposed conceptual framework linking diversity culture to holistic admissions associated with high URM student enrollment (relative to other similar programs). Data from multiple sources were collected at each program during the 2018–2019 admissions cycle, and a coding manual derived from the conceptual framework facilitated directed content analysis and comparison of program similarities and differences. Consistent with the conceptual framework, diversity culture appeared to be a strong driver of holistic admissions practices that support enrolling diverse classes of students. Additional insights emerged that may serve as propositions for further testing and include the finding that URM faculty ‘champions for diversity’ appeared to strongly influence the admissions process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1491-1517
Number of pages27
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Diversity
  • Health professions education
  • Health workforce
  • Holistic admissions
  • Holistic review
  • Organizational culture
  • Physician assistant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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