An article by David Steele of May 13, “Will more medical schools mean more black doctors?” effectively illustrated the problem and much-needed opportunities to attract more black students to medical schools. The opening of two new medical schools in historically black institutions is a remarkable step, but in order to truly achieve our goal of increasing the diversity of the workforce of physicians in our country, it will take more effort from the medical education community.
This is a goal that the Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) take very seriously. In an important first step, last fall, each member of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) issued its first statement recognizing that systemic inequality in the American education system negatively affects the diversity of osteopathic medical school entrants. . The statement also outlined model strategies for improving and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in medical education in the field of osteopathy, as well as opportunities to review and expand efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. We certainly hope that our colleagues in the education of medical associations will follow this example. As higher education institutions, we must all unite, as the osteopathic medical education community has done, to eliminate systemic inequalities that affect our country’s education system and hinder progress for all.
However, as Steele noted, it takes more than new schools to really change the dynamics in underrepresented minority communities. To achieve this goal, two weeks ago AACOM launched a new program to supplement the guidelines on health equity and health imbalances – the Academic Recognition Program. The program will initially be available to every third-year medical student (typically when medical students begin a full-time clinical experience) at every COM in the United States. The first course of the program is specifically devoted to inequality and disparity. The next three courses enhance students’ ability to recognize and understand circumstances that may contribute to inequality.
By better preparing physicians to practice in and with all communities, we hope to improve patient outcomes as well as demonstrate the value and rewards of community service and strengthen relationships and trust between patients and physicians.
By collaborating with HBCU, such as Morgan State University and Xaver University, on opening new medical schools and ensuring that the doctors we train are ready to treat patients in every community, we can create a more inclusive medical education environment that is attractive to black students. from each underrepresented community. National Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine are committed to increasing the diversity of medical students and making medical education accessible to all. We invite all higher education institutions to join us to work together for a healthier and fairer future.
–Robert A. Cain
President and Chief Executive Officer
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine