Dear NEOMED Community:
After engaging our students, faculty and staff, as well as dozens of public and private partners over the past nine months, we began the strategic planning process in January. We emerged from these discussions with a focus on operating as one University and a central objective to ensure that we provide an exceptional student experience.
Of course, we cannot be one or have an exceptional student experience until all feel welcomed and have opportunities to excel.
One of the areas where we have not reached our potential is delivering on our commitment to increase diversity on our campus. Our campus has great ethnic and international diversity but falls short in its inclusion of black and Latinx students. We know we must effect intentional and positive change.
In March, the COVID-19 pandemic was immediately upon us. The threat of the spread forced us to adjust how we would learn, teach and work. We had to delay our strategic planning process and modify our operations to sustain our high-quality education, research and service. Nevertheless, we continued to move forward with plans for positive change.
NEOMED is focusing on a renewed effort to increase campus diversity and develop students who are underrepresented in medicine (URIM) that will allow us to emerge stronger than ever. The University has engaged in discussions, plans and initiatives to increase its number of high quality and impactful programs, pathways and partnerships ― adding to those which already exist.
A key building block in these discussions has been the NEOMED-Cleveland State University (CSU) Partnership for Urban Health. Discussions are taking place to make changes that will enable each University partner to optimize the program and increase opportunities for underrepresented students in the medical fields. The next meeting with Community Advisory Board is planned for July 1. While final details of how the program will be modified to provide higher value and impact are still being discussed, both NEOMED and CSU recognize the importance of the partnership.
Positive change to NEOMED’s partnership with CSU is just one important element of a growing set of initiatives that will enable us to increase our development of underrepresented students in the medical fields and to improve the way we train clinicians to serve a more diverse community.
Other new measures that NEOMED has (will) put into place include:
- We have launched a new postbaccalaureate pathway. A new master’s degree pathway will increase NEOMED College of Medicine seats for underrepresented minority (URM) and URIM students who successfully complete this one-year program. This program is separate from ― but not competitive with ― the CSU post-baccalaureate program in that it focuses on a different set of candidates who are farther along in their premedical preparation and already equipped to complete a very intensive 1-year program. Candidates will already have many of the qualifications needed to matriculate into medical school. The pathway will provide students additional knowledge and skills to successfully prepare for the rigors of medical school. In addition to graduate training in anatomical sciences, these students will take some classes with current NEOMED medical students. NEOMED will reserve up to 10 College of Medicine positions for students who successfully complete the program, and they will not have to re-take MCAT.
- Our ultimate focus is on student success. The experiences we have gained through the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health over the past 8 years have given us a better understanding of what elements have provided the most value toward student success and what elements should be improved. While we are still working out some of the details on how the program will evolve, we are committed to the important mission of the partnership. As we move forward, CSU will continue to strengthen and grow the premedical program. NEOMED will also strengthen and grow the preclinical aspects and clinical elements of the medical school-based curriculum. The urban health pathway will be integrated under the Department of Family and Community Medicine as a dedicated pathway on the NEOMED campus. NEOMED’s pathway will have a team committed to provide increased support and opportunities to both current and future students. We will work to have students spend as many of their clinical experiences in urban health care environments as possible. NEOMED’s new medical school curriculum will be launched in July 2020. The new curriculum created to modernize and improve teaching quality and to meet LCME accreditation requirements is best delivered with all students together on the NEOMED campus. The foundation of this new curricular model, developed at Harvard, is peer-education. Under this model, students work together as a team of peers facilitated by clinical and basic science faculty partners. Given the importance of being on the NEOMED campus during the first two years of medical school, NEOMED will not need the building space leased on the CSU campus. We are currently assessing the best use of this space to support our ongoing mission.
- We are partnering with minority health leaders. NEOMED is creating a Presidential External Advisory Committee on Diversity and Equity. We are currently putting together a team of leaders from the minority health care community to evaluate our efforts and to provide ongoing insight and guidance on how we can develop more effective programs to engage underrepresented students in the medical fields.
- We are seeking to add affordability as well as increased access. NEOMED is working to increase scholarship opportunities for students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the past few months, we have raised philanthropic dollars to support scholarships for underrepresented minority students. Additionally, we recently received notice that we have been awarded a federal grant that will provide 32 half-tuition scholarships per year to disadvantaged students. The award of up to five years was provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
We also recognize the national-level teaching bias that exists in medical education and are aware of supporting research data that has led to many health care practices based on disease expression, treatment and outcomes from Caucasian male populations.
NEOMED is committed to changing our educational curriculum to ensure we are broadly and more effectively teaching the practice of health care delivery for all patient populations. In addition, we are integrating elements of social determinants of health and cultural competency in health care delivery in our curriculum for all students.
We are dedicated to increasing our campus diversity through new programs and pathways. We are also fully committed to the success of our current and future students who come through the NEOMED-CSU partnership.
We are more passionate than ever that all will continue to have a high-quality educational experience.
John T. Langell