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Nation’s Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Unanimously Commit to Addressing Systemic Inequity

October 04, 2021

AACOM member colleges unite to advance diversity, equity and inclusion

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Bethesda, MD) – Today, our nation’s osteopathic medical schools emphasized their commitment to increasing medical student diversity by unanimously recognizing 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.

The consensus statement is the direct result of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)’s Racism and Injustice in Healthcare Education Adaptive Workgroup, which was organized last year with Barbara Ross-Lee, DO, at the helm.

“The workgroup’s efforts to engage every osteopathic medical school to commit to address the systemic, pervasive issues preventing our country from being as healthy and equitable as it can be is a monumental step forward,” says Dr. Ross-Lee. “This unanimity of our osteopathic medical education institutions paves the way for meaningful, lasting initiatives and efforts needed so urgently by all osteopathic students and the patients and communities they will go on to serve. The COVID-19 pandemic has harshly illuminated the life-threatening injustices in our society, and we cannot afford to ignore them any longer. I look forward to leading this workgroup to produce further critical outcomes such as this.”

“By supporting this AACOM member consensus statement, all of the nation’s osteopathic medical schools formalized our dedication to making medical education more equitable, pledging to lead and sustain this work at our own institutions,” says Margaret Wilson, DO, dean and professor at the A.T. Still University of Health Sciences Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and AACOM Board of Deans chair. “As medical institutions, our voices, especially when unified, are powerful, but we also recognize that true success will take more. We invite the entire osteopathic medical education community to join us in this effort, and we thank the students, faculty members and other leaders whose partnership, expertise and vision have helped us get this far.”

“Having student voices on AACOM’s Racism and Injustice in Healthcare Education Adaptive Workgroup has been tremendously vital to ensuring that the student perspective and recommendations are being heard and considered. The voices of students underrepresented in medicine are ultimately influencing how policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion are shaped,” says Chantel Thompson, Student National Medical Association National President and DO/MPH Candidate, 2022, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Our country has the worst health outcomes, and worst health equity, among similarly wealthy nations, even though we spend the most on healthcare,” says Krista Niezwaag, OMS IV, former National Chair of the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I chose to pursue medicine to make a difference for all patients, particularly those whom the system is failing the most. I am proud that our schools of osteopathic medicine have taken this first step to address systemic inequities and make healthcare more equitable.”

“Just as AACOM and its member colleges are committed to building a world where all patients have the option of receiving osteopathic care, we are also striving to actively foster a healthcare system where all patients can access healthcare equitably and live free of systemic racism and harm,” says AACOM President and CEO Robert A. Cain, DO. “From its origins, osteopathic medicine prioritized inclusivity. The founder of osteopathic medicine, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, was a fervent abolitionist, and welcomed the idea of both African American and female medical students to take his courses. In 1921, his dream was realized when Meta L. Christy, DO, became the first African-American osteopathic physician. Through this consensus statement, we continue to honor osteopathic medicine’s inclusive roots and its tenet that structure and function are intimately interrelated. At the same time we also recognize, at a fundamental level, that it is imperative we address our structural inequities to improve how our society functions”

As an association, AACOM has been actively working to improve diversity in admissions. Since 2012, AACOM’s Sherry R. Arnstein Minority Student Scholarship has granted financial awards to underrepresented osteopathic medical students, and in 2020, AACOM began pilot testing an Artificial Intelligence/Natural Language Processing model to support a more holistic review of applicants and help reduce dependence on MCAT scores and GPAs. AACOM also hosted the Diversity in Osteopathic Medicine Virtual Event last September, expanded a fee waiver program to encourage financially disadvantaged students to become osteopathic physicians and added gender identity to the AACOM Application Service application.

About AACOM

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) leads and advocates for the full continuum of osteopathic medical education to improve the health of the public. Founded in 1898 to support and assist the nation's osteopathic medical schools, AACOM represents all 37 colleges of osteopathic medicine—educating nearly 34,000 future physicians, 25 percent of all U.S. medical students—at 58 teaching locations in 33 U.S. states, as well as osteopathic graduate medical education professionals and trainees at U.S. medical centers, hospitals, clinics and health systems.

Contacts

Joseph Shapiro
AACOM Director of Media Relations
(240) 938-0746
jshapiro@aacom.org

Christine DeCarlo
AACOM Media and Public Affairs Manager
(202) 603-1026
cdecarlo@aacom.org