iversity is a priority topic across the osteopathic medical education (OME) community. Osteopathic medical schools, physicians, and DO students all share the vision and mission to foster diversity in OME.

Leaders across the osteopathic profession are working to raise awareness of the need to diversify the DO student population, and are taking steps to ensure that the next generation of physicians can meet the nation’s increasingly diverse health care needs. Therefore, it is important to recognize and understand the voices and perspectives of all osteopathic medical students—inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, disability, and beyond—so that together the OME community can address their diverse needs and support the development of clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.

DO Student Perspective on Diversity in OME: Introducing SNMA President-Elect Danielle Ward

08-2016_SNMA-D-WardDuring the 2016 the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC), Danielle Ward, third-year DO student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine-Georgia Campus (GA-PCOM), was elected to the position of SNMA National President-Elect.

In addition to being a full-time medical student, Danielle balances her time as a single mother to her nine-year-old daughter. She also volunteers and stays involved as a GA-PCOM Student Ambassador and member of various organizations. In 2013, Danielle created the “Aspiring Minority Doctor” blog, which she actively maintains as a way to document her journey through medical school while also offering tips and advice to pre-medical students on similar paths. Additionally, she serves as the Director of Blogs and Articles for DiverseMedicine Inc., and has been featured on, Medical School Headquarters, and the Journal of the SNMA, among others.

As a newly-elected leader and current osteopathic medical student, here’s what Danielle shared with us.

Is there an aspect of the SNMA mission that you feel most passionate about or connect with most? How does it relate to your goals as the new president-elect?

The Student National Medical Association is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority students, addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.

I am passionate about the entire mission of the SNMA, but I connect most with supporting future underrepresented minority students through the organization’s many pipeline programs. I truly believe that if it weren’t for the guidance provided by the SNMA, I would not be the medical student that I am today. I was a single parent, had to overcome a low undergraduate GPA along with multiple MCAT attempts, and applied to medical school three times before I received my first acceptance. If it wasn’t for the inspiration and guidance I received from SNMA members, I do not know if I would have kept pushing. Oftentimes, I find that many underrepresented pre-medical minority students desire to become a physician, but they do not have access to the proper resources or mentors that can help them in the process. Additionally, I find the low numbers of black men entering into and graduating from medical school very concerning, and feel that this issue can be addressed by a stronger outreach to the younger populations.

For this reason, one of my major goals as National President-Elect is to really bring the pipeline programming of the organization to the forefront. I would also like to stay within the vision of the SNMA by developing programming that addresses racial/ethnic health disparities and health advocacy.

What growth or success do you think has been achieved related to diversity in OME?

In my opinion, the major success of the osteopathic medical education system is that it recognizes the need for diversity in the medical profession, and is actively taking the steps to increase diversity among osteopathic medical schools. One thing that I have always valued about GA-PCOM is the amount of diversity in my class. Being a part of a widely diverse class has allowed me not only to work with colleagues of different backgrounds and cultures, but it has also given me insight into the diverse patient populations I will be working with one day. This exposure to diversity will both help make me a better physician, and also allow me to provide the best care to my patients in the long run.

What do you think is lacking in the shared mission to expand diversity in OME? What areas need to be addressed?

Raising awareness for the osteopathic profession and having more visibility is something that the OME community could focus on to expand its diversity. As a pre-medical student, I was first exposed to osteopathic programs at the SNMA’s Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC), and this influenced me to pursue an osteopathic medical education. If there were more osteopathic medical schools and residency programs at AMEC and other conferences targeted at underrepresented minority students, I feel it could greatly help expand diversity in OME.

Mental Health Challenges Transcend Diversity

While different groups/populations—whether based on race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, age, or other identifiable characteristics—may have unique medical needs relative to those of others, mental health issues transcend all definitions of diversity. Mental health issues affect all types of individuals and with its inclusive nature, mental health and well-being has become increasingly important for all DO students and physicians.

Under the theme “Mental Health: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century,” what were some highlights of the 2016 AMEC?

During my term as 2015-2016 SNMA Osteopathic Schools Co-chair, I was happy to bring osteopathic workshops to the 2016 AMEC that focused on mental health and diversity within osteopathic medicine. On the mental health front, a major highlight for me was having Vania Manipod, DO, come speak about osteopathic medicine and how she ties it into the psychiatry profession. I was also extremely pleased at the turnout we had at the osteopathic school’s reception with Will Stubbs, DO, and Matthew Montgomery, DO, who spoke about the challenges they faced as black men in the osteopathic profession, as well as the ways we can help increase diversity within the osteopathic community. It was a very eye-opening experience for some of the attendees, and it definitely helped to shine a spotlight on osteopathic medicine for both the pre-medical and allopathic medical student attendees.

Inside OME Header
July/August 2016
Vol. 10, No. 6