Thursday, January 9, 2014

Underrepresented Minorities and Osteopathic Medical Schools

I was asked a question the other day about the number of African-Americans attending osteopathic medical schools and if the chances were greater for minorities to enter into medical school. This had me not only thinking about the number of minorities in medical school, but the general number of female minorities that matriculate into medical school. I decided to research this information and I came across a very detailed and well-written blog that answered this question way better than I ever could. The link to it can be found here. I believe it is specific to allopathic schools and underrepresented minorities (URMs) in general, but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t share it because I think it is a very honest and thorough response to the question. It was recently updated, so it’s worth looking at.

To get the facts on osteopathic schools, I went ahead and accessed the applicant and matriculant data from the AACOM website. For the 2013 entering class, it listed on 11.7 percent of applicants as being underrepresented minorities, and only 5.4 percent of applicants were African-American. I did find it interesting that the percentage of African-American female applicants was slightly higher than males, but for the other underrepresented minorities these percentages were pretty similar. AACOM does not have the matriculant information listed for the 2013 entering class, so I went ahead and took a look at the 2012 matriculant data and was somewhat shocked. 11.3 percent of underrepresented minorities applied, but only 6.5 percent matriculated. Furthermore, out of the 3.1 percent of African-American females that applied, only 1.4 percent matriculated. Now obviously I am an African-American female, so that is where most of my interest lies, but if you belong to another underrepresented minority group please feel free to check out the individual statistics here

Seeing the numbers really shocked me, and caused me to question a few things such as:

-  Why are so little underrepresented minorities applying to osteopathic medical schools?

-  Are osteopathic schools doing enough to increase diversity?

-  Why do people continue to believe that minorities have an easier chance of getting into medical  school when this is clearly not the case?

-  Why is it that African-American male applicants are less than half of female applicants, but the  number of matriculants for both genders is so close?

I obviously don’t know the answers to these questions, but in my OPINION as an African-American, whether or not you're in an osteopathic or allopathic school there won't be a lot of African-Americans unless you attend one of the allopathic HBCUs (Morehouse, Howard, Meharry). I don't think this is because osteopathic schools don't want us there, but I think it is more due to the fact that we aren't really informed about our options or what osteopathic medicine is. I also don't believe that as a minority that we get any special treatment in the application process. If you look at some of the schools in the AACOM CIB, there are some schools listed that have 0% African-Americans enrolled. I think the chances are somewhat higher for us if we apply to these schools, but then you have to decide if you would really be ok with being the only black person in your class for four years. I'm used to this because a majority of my childhood was spent in schools that had very few minorities. It's nice to know there are others like you going through similar situations, and for this reason I avoided applying to a few of the schools that had very little minorities. I’m assuming there are others who feel the same way as myself, but please remember that these are only my opinions.

What is clear to me is that osteopathic schools could do a lot more to raise awareness about DO’s and they could also develop more strategies aimed at recruiting a greater number of minority applicants. People cannot apply to something that they know nothing about, and I really think this is the biggest obstacle to be overcome in terms of osteopathic medical schools. Someday in the future, the public will be fully informed and accepting of the two types of physicians in the United States, but until that time there is so much more work that needs to be done to raise awareness for osteopathic medicine as a whole. 


  1. I love the fact that you come up when I tried to google this question. Awesome blog, Dr. Ward! I'm attending PCOM in a few weeks (sounds weird!) lol. Hopefully, we will cross paths at an event this year!

    1. Glad you found it useful and welcome to the PCOM family! Best of luck to you as you start your new journey :-)

  2. I don't know about black woman deferring to DO school rather than an MD program. I'm a pre-med student but my cousin is in her first year of residency and attended a DO school. Women are already assumed to be the nurse and women of color are already assumed to not be physicians, AND a DO on top of that? She says not only the patients often assume she isn't a doctor but the staff (the attendings and the residents) also don't consider her a real doctor.

    1. In the medical world, no one really cares if you're a DO or MD. The training is the same and we're equals. Whether a black woman decides to go MD or DO, there will always be those that assume she is not a physician solely on the fact that she is female and/or black.


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