AACOM Statement on Medical Student Protestors

Published July 07, 2020


In the aftermath of George Floyd’s horrific and senseless death, and the deaths of many other Black members of our society, we have seen a nation respond in fierce protest. Renewed energy can be seen in the Black Lives Matter movement, not just in the U.S. but across the world, calling for racial equality and police reform.

We should all speak up when we see injustice. We should work to change things that are unfair.  As a democratic society, Americans are guaranteed certain constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. These freedoms ensure people can gather and meet, both publicly and privately, to speak up for what they believe in, and to advocate for change.

We encourage our colleagues working in medical education and in medicine to speak out against racial disparities. We encourage this of medical students as well, in their daily activities and relationships, scholarship and teaching. We are inspired by the passion and commitment of thousands of medical students to fight racism wherever it exists within their communities, including the inequities of our health system. As we stated on June 2, “We are [also] people who refuse to stand silent while innocent lives are taken. We choose to speak out against hate and injustice.”

Unfortunately, real change often comes at a cost. In many circumstances, peaceful protestors are subject to arrest, violence, threats or intimidation. We are empathetic to the challenges faced by those standing up for what they believe is right, even at the risk of personal sacrifice, whether they be medical students or otherwise.  

Being a doctor also comes with a cost, and not just financially. Long days and nights as students transition into long days and nights as doctors. As learners and practitioners, we often sacrifice family time and even put our own lives at risk to help others. For many, medicine is a calling, as is speaking out. We should use our voices as much as our hands to heal, whether our patients or our country.

AACOM is an organization committed to promoting excellence in osteopathic medical education, policy, research, and service. We believe osteopathic medical education is an effective solution to improving the nation’s health.

We also recognize this is a difficult time for many. One should not have to choose between a successful medical career and standing up for one’s beliefs. We strongly support our member colleges of osteopathic medicine in developing programs and policies that generate a diverse cohort of qualified applicants. That cohort needs greater representation from communities of color. Every sector of healthcare needs to address this more aggressively. We are working together with our AACOM communities to identify ways to more effectively attract and matriculate minority students who will then go on to become leaders in the healthcare profession. This is critical to improving inequities in health care and better serving our communities, especially post-COVID 19.  

While final decisions related to the outcome of any prospective osteopathic medical student’s application are the purview of AACOM’s individual member colleges of osteopathic medicine, we are committed to supporting our members with research, data and other information to enable them to adjust policies when necessary to consider unforeseen consequences related to applicants making their voices heard. As an osteopathic medical community, we focus on the whole person – mind, body and spirit – and want to ensure that all osteopathic medical students are defined by their whole history, motivation and background, and not isolated incidents.  

As doctors, our focus must be to care. We must care enough to listen to our patients, care enough to never give up, care enough to do what’s right even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. We know those who are protesting for human rights and greater equality in our country also care deeply about their fellow citizens. And many of those protestors can and will make the best doctors.