COMs Recognize Black History Month

Published February 19, 2019


February is Black History Month, and schools and campuses across the country are participating in activities and events that highlight African American heritage, civil rights initiatives, and provide forums for discussion. Here are how some schools have chosen to take part. This article will be updated as colleges submit events and activities happening on their campuses.

A. T. Still University's Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and A. T. Still University's School of Osteopathic Medicine Arizona

Both A. T. Still University's Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and A. T. Still University's School of Osteopathic Medicine Arizona put together a rolling slide show presentation celebrating Black History in Health Care. The schools also held a cultural spirit day, using social media for students to showcase their heritage. The campuses will showcase historic figures on social media throughout the month. The Black Student Association will host additional events at the end of the month.

Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine

In addition to the ongoing cultural competency, humility trainings, and classes the school has developed, Des Moines University also provided a tour of several community-based organizations, providing African American and other underrepresented populations information about medical and health science careers. Students also had the opportunity to directly apply the skills and knowledge they learned in trainings and classes through the tour.

The school provided local youth and families the opportunity to learn more about the programs on offer on the campus, ranging from K-12, pre-med, and graduate level opportunities and programs. Throughout the year, Des Moines University will provide implicit bias trainings utilizing the Harvard IAT.

University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine

The Presidents of White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL) at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNE COM), Karissa Rajagopal, class of 2022, and Jenna Wozer, class of 2021 were in the audience at the Martin Luther King, Jr. event on January 23 when longtime activist and educator, Angela Davis, PhD, spoke at the school which included her advice for physicians in combating the immense health disparities for black women.

Osteopathic medical students walked away with the confidence that activism does not look like one particular thing—each of us has the ability to be an agent of change. Dr. Davis cautioned the limited pitfalls of diversity and inclusion, and added that energy ought to be put into the subversive power of justice.

Photo: Co-Presidents of the UNE COM student chapter of White Coats for Black Lives (WC4BL) at Angela Davis, PhD talk.

Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine

Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) hosted an annual lecture series named for Dr. William G. Anderson, the first African-American president of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), and one of our faculty members. This series has brought notable civil rights speakers to the campus for 19 years. Read more.

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)

In February, PCOM marked Black History Month and the contributions of black osteopathic medicine physicians with a host of events.

On February 8, the PCOM chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and the offices of Admissions, Diversity and Community Relations and Student Affairs, sponsored an event to mark the start of Black History Month and honor the contributions of PCOM’s African-American alumni. The event featured spoken word, dance and musical performances, and a keynote from alumna Monique Gary, DO, who in her speech honored the legacy and work of former board member Leonard Johnson, DO. Dr. Johnson was the 2003 recipient of PCOM’s OJ Snyder Memorial Medal, and in 2014, his portrait was hung in Evans Hall as a testament to his commitment to the students and patients whom he served.

On Tuesday, February 12, the Office of Diversity and Community Relations and the SNMA sponsored a conversation with Deneen Hendrick, DO, to commemorate the legacy of Meta Christy, DO—the first African-American graduate from PCOM and the nation’s first African-American osteopathic physician. Dr. Hendrick, coordinator of pre-health studies at Rowan University and former clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at PCOM, discussed with attendees her own professional journey.

Throughout the month of February, a list of prominent African-American alumni from PCOM was displayed in the lobby of Evans Hall to honor their accomplishments. In addition to Dr. Christy, other notable black alumni include Ethel D. Allen, DO, the first African-American elected to an at-large seat in the Philadelphia City Council, and Danielle Ward, DO, who was the first DO student to head the national SNMA.

Also in February, the Cultural Competency Program (CCP)—a collaboration initiated by the SNMA among student groups across PCOM that addresses the impact of culture, race, religion, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status on patient care and the healthcare system—held the inaugural Cultural Humility and Medicine Symposium at PCOM.

The event, open to all medical students from schools across the region, explored the social issues which fuel discrimination, bias, and neglect within the healthcare system. The day featured lectures and breakout sessions on topics such as poverty, religious practices, patients with disabilities, provider perception of pain, African-American maternal mortality and trauma informed-care. Roughly 75 students from PCOM, Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and Drexel University College of Medicine attended.

“It was our hope that we could contribute to increasing awareness among our peers, to increase cultural humility and demonstrate that together we can eliminate bias, disparities, and neglect,” said Chantel Thompson DO, co-president of SNMA at PCOM and program chair for CCP.

She added that several administrative offices, student groups and individuals on campus—including Robert Dustin, associate director of Student Affairs; Meshonea Fox, administrative coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs; Marcine Pickron-Davis, PhD, Chief Diversity and Community Relations Officer; and Marsha Williams, Associate Director of Admission for Diversity Initiatives and Recruitment—as instrumental in the planning of the event.

Also on display throughout the month was an exhibition of paintings in Evans Hall done by local artist Stephanie Boateng, who said her paintings “are about celebrating the beauty of black people, our features and expressions.” The exhibition was curated by Megan Aidoo, DO, and Ms. Williams in admissions.

“Events like those we held for Black History Month speak to the unique experience of both the African-American physician and patient in the U.S. health care system,” said Dr. Pickron-Davis. “Exposing everyone to those experiences and viewpoints will make our students better physicians, able to treat all patients with compassionate care, and better colleagues and members of the profession as well.”

Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM)

The Student National Medical Association (SNMA), a national organization which supports current and future underrepresented minority medical students, organized a “Minorities in Medicine” discussion panel for premed students visiting the campus during RVU’s Multi-COM Fair and Expo. RVU’s student doctors shared their experiences as an African American or other underrepresented minority student, and how they seek to increase the number of culturally competent and socially conscious physicians in practice. Advisors were also on hand to answer any questions about the admissions process, interviewing skills, and how to be competitive for residency applications and beyond.

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in California

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in California (TUCOM-CA) held its 2019 Melanated Luncheon on January 14 at the Farragut Inn. The event celebrated Melanin, Lunch, and Kinship. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, the luncheon is a time of reflection to consider how much further we must be willing to go to achieve his dream of racial justice. The school hopes to use this as an opportunity to build relationships by breaking bread and sharing ideas on promoting diversity and inclusion on and off campus.

Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine

Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine celebrated with a two-part presentation, titled “Black Life in Las Vegas from the Beginning to WWII.” The presenter was Claytee White, Director of the Oral History Research Center at University Nevada, Las Vegas. The presentation explored race relations in the community, which included the unique history that involves segregation of casinos and Black celebrity entertainers.

Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine Carolinas Campus (VCOM–Carolinas)

To commemorate Black History Month 2019, the Student National Medical Association at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM)–Carolinas campus hosted a multicultural event on Wednesday, February 27 featuring food, music, and movement. A special guest performance was provided by Greenville, SC-based dancer and choreographer Vaughn Newman. The celebration’s capstone event was a free African dance class taught by Arialle Kennedy Smith, a graduate of the Ailey School and owner of AVK Dance Studio in Spartanburg, SC.

William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine

On February 22, William Carey University’s SNMA members will show a short video on US maternal death rates for African American women. Following the video, there will be an open discussion on the national statistics compared to state-specific statics regarding maternal death rates. This discussion is intended to bring greater awareness to how medical disparity continues to impact our state, and how these disparities potentially impact our future physicians. Additionally, the video and discussion will emphasize that every practicing physician has an obligation to help alleviate racial disparity and the implicit biases in health care.

That same day, a panel of African-American physicians from Mississippi and Louisiana will discuss their experiences in medical school—including the admissions process—and their experience as practicing physicians. Following these presentations, there will be an open floor discussion and opportunity for students to ask questions, or simply voice their opinions.