The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) is committed to educating and training osteopathic physicians who represent the fabric of our nation, not only to address disparities in healthcare but also to improve the overall health of all people. This guiding principle of diversity, equity and inclusion was put into action when AACOM approached Chris Trudell, MEd, assistant dean of students at San Francisco State University, to create and lead AACOM’s Ally training for admissions faculty at our member colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) last fall.
The Safe Zone training was provided as a learning resource after gender identity and personal pronoun usage were added as optional questions to the AACOM application to osteopathic medical school during the 2019-2020 cycle. Safe Zone trainings are opportunities to learn about LGBTQIA+ identities, gender and sexuality, and to examine prejudice, assumptions and privilege while helping guide those in the training to create physical, mental and online space to talk freely with and people that identify as LGBTQIA+.
In November, more than 30 COMs had representatives from across the nation attend the virtual training to broaden and intentionally complicate their understanding of gender and sexuality, investigate interdependent systems of oppression, create a holistic view of multifaceted identity and develop their capacity to stand in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ individuals and their community. Attendance was limited to 40 individuals to keep the setting intimate and allow for questions and conversations. Throughout two hour-and-a-half sessions, participants covered topics including common vocabulary, social identity, intersectionality, what it means to be an ally and resources for further education. Ultimately, participants left the training better equipped to create spaces where members of the LGBTQIA+ community could feel understood and represented on an osteopathic medical school campus. While Safe Zone trainings are intentionally not certificate courses, attendees were provided “AACOM Ally” stickers to indicate safe spaces throughout their COMs. These stickers are an outward show of acceptance, and are meant to prompt conversation and provide security to LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Attendees found the training powerful and insightful. When asked for feedback on the program, one individual responded, “I think it is wonderful that AACOM has secured this Ally training to provide to our COMs nationally! I know all my student affairs members are trained and I’m hopeful that some of our admissions team members would take advantage of the AACOM training!” Another individual said, “Thank you so much for organizing this! It makes me so happy to see others serious about creating positive changes to the field!”
By providing this member training, AACOM is helping to fulfill its goal of generating a diverse cohort of qualified applicants from which COMs will admit, train and educate future osteopathic physicians. The benefits of a Safe Zone extend beyond student recruitment—it further indicates a welcoming and accepting community for all visitors, faculty and staff.
To learn more about the topics covered through the training, view the AACOM Ally Safe Zone curriculum. If you are already Safe Zone trained and would like to request an AACOM Ally sticker to indicate your status as an ally on your own campus, please contact Erin Helbling, MEd, AACOM’s Associate Director of Recruitment and Outreach, at firstname.lastname@example.org.