I’m glad to be part of an institution is taking this seriously.
For reference, clerkship grades and AOA is determined primarily or largely by instructor recommendations, and NOT primarily by objective indicators of performance.
Deeply concerned by recent national reports demonstrating racial differences in Alpha Omega Alpha nomination and clinical grading, we have begun to look at our own data at Washington University School of Medicine. Our preliminary results demonstrate similar racial differences with white students being more likely to receive honors grades in the clinical clerkships and more likely to be nominated for Alpha Omega Alpha than students of color. At AAMC this week, we heard similar reports from several peer institutions. We have discussed this with the chairs of the departments and the clerkship directors. We will be communicating this to the students today as well. We are working with the department chairs to make presentations on the data to individual departments. There is still more investigation to be done, but as a school, we are deeply committed to understanding why this is, how to address these disparities now, and how to prevent them in the future. To this end, we are planning the following immediate strategies as the first steps in the process:
Convene a series of small group meetings with students to better understand the student experience of racial bias on this campus; Encourage use of the online, anonymous reporting system to gather additional comments that students may feel uncomfortable sharing in person or in groups;
Ensure availability of one on one or other meetings for anyone (students, residents, fellows, faculty and staff) who wishes them with Dean Aagaard, Associate Vice Chancellor and Associate Dean Sherree Wilson, Associate Dean Will Ross, and anyone else you may feel safe talking with;
Develop an immediate process for grade challenges that may be related to racial or gender discrimination, spearheaded by Medical Student Government;
Convene an urgent commission of clerkship directors, students and other key stakeholders to make suggestions for immediate, short and long-term changes to grading and AOA selection, spearheaded by Assistant Dean Steven Lawrence;
Continue a deeper evaluation of the underlying causes that contribute to these disparities through additional analysis of preclinical, NBME, shelf and other data available to us, spearheaded by Associate Dean Eve Colson (Program Evaluation and Continuous Quality Improvement).
We have also reached out to our colleagues who have demonstrated a willingness to work to address this critical issue including UCSF and Mt Sinai, among others. We are committed to ensuring that Washington University is a diverse, equitable and inclusive place for all our students, residents, fellows, staff and faculty. We will not stop until that is the case.
One thing I have very much appreciated at WUSTL is the universal and genuine concern for issues like this. Integration needs be taken seriously, and it is taken seriously here. Rather than looking at how others make mistakes alone, it is most important to fix the problems within our own control.