To the Editor:
David Steele’s May 13 article, “Will More Medical Schools Mean More Black Doctors?,” effectively illustrated the challenge and the much needed opportunities to attract more black students to medical schools. The opening of two new medical schools at historically Black institutions is a great step, but it will take a more comprehensive effort from the medical education community to truly meet our goal of increasing diversity in our nation’s physician workforce.
This is a goal that colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) take very seriously. In an important first step, last fall, every member of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) issued a first of its kind statement that recognized that the systemic inequities of America’s education system are adversely impacting the diversity of osteopathic medical school applicants. The statement also outlines model strategies to improve and support diversity, equity and inclusion across osteopathic medical education, as well as opportunities to reframe and expand diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. We certainly hope our fellow health professions education associations will follow suit. As higher education institutions, we must all come together, as the osteopathic medical education community did, to address the systemic inequities plaguing our nation’s education system and hindering progress for all.
As Steele noted, however, it takes more than new schools to truly change the dynamic within underrepresented minority communities. Toward this goal, two weeks ago, AACOM launched a new program dedicated to supplementing instruction around health equity and health disparities—the Academic Recognition Program. The program will initially be available to every third-year medical student (generally when medical students begin their full-time clinical experiences) at every COM in the United States. The program’s first course is specifically focused on inequities and disparities. The following three courses enhance the students’ abilities to recognize and understand circumstances that may contribute to inequities.
By better preparing doctors to practice in and with all communities, we hope to improve patient outcomes while also demonstrating the value and rewards of serving the community and strengthening relationships and trust between patients and physicians.
By working with HBCUs, like Morgan State University and Xavier University, to open new medical schools and by ensuring the physicians we train are prepared to treat patients in every community, we can create a more inclusive medical education environment that is attractive to Black students and students from every underrepresented community. The nation’s colleges of osteopathic medicine are committed to increasing medical student diversity and ensuring medical education is accessible to all. We invite all higher educational institutions to join us as we work together toward a healthier, more equitable future.
–Robert A. Cain
President & Chief Executive Officer
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine