The Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (AΩA) has chosen the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) as a recipient of its 2020 Award for Excellence in Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Medical Education and Patient Care.
"As clearly expressed by our mission statement, we celebrate diversity as one of our core values," said Dr. Robert Sackstein, HWCOM dean. "Diversity, equity and inclusion are integral to the very fabric of our college and are reflected in our curriculum, our programs and our processes."
The AΩA recognized HWCOM for "its innovative admissions policies and unique curriculum that incorporates service-learning to foster social accountability, especially with underserved South Florida communities."
Angelique Gadson, a third-year medical student, says diversity is one of the reasons she chose HWCOM.
"As a black female and also a first-generation student, it is really important to know I am going to be supported," she said. Gadson is one of the students who helped write the college's submission for the award.
HWCOM's focus on diversity begins with a holistic admissions process. Students are valued for their enriching qualities and experiences, not just their academic credentials.
The Class of 2024 embodies this commitment to diversity:
- 26 percent of students are of Hispanic/Latino origin, compared with 6.2 percent nationally
- 11 percent of students identify as African American/Black, compared with 7.1 percent nationally
- 2 percent of students identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native, compared with approximately 0.2 percent nationally
- 57 percent of the class is female
- 28 percent of students are first-generation
- 48 percent of students are bilingual
HWCOM's curriculum stresses cultural competence and social accountability. Its signature service-learning program, the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP, has been recognized internationally as a social responsibility model in health care and medical education. NeighborhoodHELP pairs medical students with medically vulnerable families of various racial and ethnic backgrounds to learn first-hand the social determinants of health.
In addition, clinical skills courses include sessions on caring for patients with disabilities and individuals in the LGBTQIA community. The Skin of Color session teaches students how to recognize and treat lesions on various skin tones.
HWCOM has several pipeline programs targeting underrepresented minorities in medicine. These include the Florida Science Training and Research Fellowship, Doctors of Tomorrow, the Premedical Undergraduate Mentoring Program, and the Wertheim Conference. The newly launched Albert E. Dotson Premedical Pipeline Program for Least Represented in Medicine was specifically designed to increase the number of Black males and Native Americans applying to medical school.
"I'm very proud of HWCOM's past and present achievements. But we also want to make sure there is diversity in the medical practitioners of tomorrow," said Dr. Rebecca Toonkel, assistant dean for curriculum, clinical education and advising. Toonkel also serves as the councilor for the AΩA Florida Epsilon Chapter.
AΩA is a prestigious national honor society that recognizes high educational achievements and humanism in medicine. More than 50 Nobel Prize winners have been AΩA members.