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New student group to address underrepresented minorities in osteopathic medicine

MADELEINE CUMMINGS | 10/10/2013, 11:30 a.m.

But try as it might, Touro’s student population is far from reflecting the diversity that literally surrounds the school’s campus. Classes, for the most part, have disproportionately large numbers of white and Asian students, even though a majority of central Harlem residents identify as African-American.

A 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that while osteopathic schools have placed more graduates into underserved areas, traditional, or allopathic, schools have recruited more underrepresented minority students.

Enrollment data from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine shows that nearly 70 percent of students in osteopathic medical colleges identify as white.

Minority students say the lack of diversity in medical schools later affects patients who may feel their needs aren’t being met by a homogenous health care system. With this in mind, Touro created a mandatory cultural competency class in which students hear directly from patients from the Harlem area. Ruiz said the school also makes an effort to hire faculty members from diverse backgrounds.

COMPASS aims to strengthen many of the school’s already-existing recruitment strategies by pairing them with student-led initiatives.

For now, the program is focused on linking schools and physicians in the New York area, but Aldo Manresa, president of the Student Government Association, hopes the new program will spur more student-led diversity efforts at medical schools across the country. Sharing the program with the minority affairs section of the American Medical Association is one path of action he’s considering.

“I would love to present COMPASS,” he said. “I think it’s a great program where other schools can reach out to local colleges and present on increasing awareness of minority physicians who have done great things.”