Morehouse is one of two inaugural recipients of the ACGME’s Diversity and Inclusion Award. Designated Institutional Official and Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education (GME) Yolanda Wimberly, MD answered the ACGME’s questions about the outstanding measures this institution has taken to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. The program will be honored at the ACGME Annual Educational Conference, taking place virtually February 24-26.
ACGME: Tell us a little bit about your Sponsoring Institution and program.
Wimberly: Morehouse School of Medicine [MSM] is proud of its commitment to and success in preparing URiM [Underrepresented in Medicine] physicians to practice medicine in underserved communities. Since 1981, when MSM launched its inaugural family medicine residency program, it now boasts seven residency and three fellowship programs. Over that span of time, MSM residency programs have prepared 931 residents and fellows to practice medicine. The school’s commitment to quality training and lifelong learning has proven successful not only by the number of its graduates, but also by their excellence and continued presence in underserved communities.
In 2015, MSM strategically aligned its recruitment strategies with its mission to increase the number of URIMs entering residency and fellowship programs. From academic years 2015 to 2020, the number of Black/African American applicants who attended Georgia medical schools increased from 161 to 676; this included an increase in Black/African American male applicants from 28 to 272. Nationally, MSM residents and fellows have now completed medical school in 30 states; internationally, in 27 countries. In the current academic year, 46 percent of MSM residents are African American and 42 percent of MSM residency graduates are African American, 16 percent of whom are African American males. This increase over the past seven years is indeed significant. Of the incoming class of 2020-21, 18 percent are African American males. And true to the MSM mission, of the 931 graduates practicing in Georgia, 94 percent practice in medically underserved areas and populations, of which 69 percent practice in the state of Georgia.
ACGME: Why is your institution so dedicated to the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Wimberly: Dedication to the mission on which MSM is founded compels each member of the organization, leadership, faculty, students, and staff, to do their work motivated by the central impetus to serve the underserved. Given the current broader awakening to cultural, societal, and workforce disparity, the core elements of MSM’s mission become even more resonant and important: increase diversity; address primary health care with an emphasis on people of color and the underserved; commit efforts to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Although the expectation and scope of the mission is expansive and far-reaching, this challenge has motivated and enthused MSM students, physician-teachers, and staff for over three decades of MSM history to make a significant difference in the world. Borne out of the primary experience of many of the institution’s members, this is not just an idealist view of the work that needs to be done; rather, it is a tested and fruitful goal, creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive society of excellent physicians. MSM proudly continues the work and envisions the success it promises, given the dedication and foresight of those who have committed to fulfilling the institution’s mission.
ACGME: What work/initiative are you specifically being recognized for?
Wimberly: Over the years, MSM’s multipronged effort to establish its outreach in accountability and to enhance its focus on intentional outcomes, has resulted in the significant increase in the number of African American applicants, residents, and graduates. As program leadership was held accountable for the outcome of increasing URiMs, institutional leadership continued to reinforce the importance of these goals.
In support of this continuing effort, the school provided the resources and professional development opportunities needed for the program administration to achieve these goals:
Increasing Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Individuals
Pre-Residency Programs and Initiatives
GME-Level Programs and Initiatives
Second Look Program for African American Males
Generally, the most significant source of URiMs, particularly African Americans, has been Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions. Achieving success through inclusive education often requires a broad yet insightful understanding of the skills needed to navigate the often-treacherous waters of practicing medicine as a physician of color. When designing MSM’s recruiting framework, its leaders structured recruitment programming to introduce honest dialogue that reinforces the greater scope of work required as a URiM, in order to include voices from all areas of academic medicine.
To strengthen MSM’s capacity to intentionally identify areas of opportunity regarding inclusivity, equitability, and civil clinical learning environments, its leaders made the decision to move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach, to a more dynamic and expansive recruitment method that involves engaging the applicants in more meaningful ways. A significant part of MSM’s recruitment success has been due to a greater understanding of the importance of establishing shared narratives through personal connections.
ACGME: Please explain what that work/initiative looks like.
Wimberly: Although the primary commitment MSM has made to develop a corps of physicians qualified to serve the underserved, that commitment extends beyond this goal, to inform, encourage, and support communities of people of color. This effort includes programming and workshops that expose students from pre-K through post-high school to real possibilities in the medical professions and research. It includes community outreach encouraging the development of young people to rise above the challenging, often harrowing, and always difficult effort to succeed in a culture established against diversity, equity, and inclusion. It extends beyond the local community to make a difference in the national conversation and transformation by MSM faculty, students, and staff who present at conferences, lead workshops, and achieve recognition for their research and outreach. The broader MSM staff is encouraged to become involved in community outreach, and many have made significant achievements, receiving accolades for their work with the underserved. The obstacles faced by these outreach efforts have been met with undaunted determination by the MSM family as they seek to make a difference in the lives of those challenged by disparity: they generate hope and provide real possibilities to create a just and equitable society.
ACGME: How has this work/initiative helped make your institution more diverse and/or inclusive?
Wimberly: By its very character as an HBCU, MSM’s mission compels its leadership to embrace and cultivate diversity and inclusivity. In the current academic year, 46 percent of MSM residents and 42 percent of MSM residency graduates are African American, 16 percent of whom are African American males. This number has significantly increased over the past seven years. African American males comprise 18 percent of MSM’s incoming class of 2020-21. Of the 931 graduates practicing in Georgia, 94 percent practice in medically underserved areas and populations, of which 69 percent practice in the state of Georgia. These figures reflect the success of fulfilling MSM’s mission, by providing a diverse and inclusive pool of excellent physicians, serving those with meager or poor health care.
ACGME: How could others use your work/initiative as a model to become more diverse and inclusive? What advice do you give to GME leaders who are looking to do just that, but aren’t sure how to start?
Wimberly: The success MSM has achieved in increasing diversity in graduate medical education (GME), was in part the result of its continuing commitment to examine three key areas:
Strategic recruitment of URiMs with an emphasis on engagement of African American male applicants;
Collaboration with minority medical schools to investigate effective recruitment methods and the efforts to successfully integrate those methods in engagement initiatives; and,
Acknowledgement of areas that need improvement to increase retention of MSM medical students and identify ways to address weaknesses in those areas.
GME leaders who face initial efforts in promoting diversity, equitability, and inclusivity in their recruitment and academic initiatives might do well to investigate areas in which they are most complacent with the status quo. Studying the institution’s data that suggests areas where homogenous groups dominate can offer a good starting point to consider how change might increase diversity and inclusion.
ACGME: What does it mean to you and to the institution to receive this award, especially being the first?
Wimberly: The mission of MSM is our pride, our bedrock: to serve the underserved; to champion those whose access to quality health care is limited or meager; and to educate and guide the next generation of physicians whose diversity will fulfill that mission as fully and with as much heart as possible. For MSM to receive the inaugural ACGME Diversity and Inclusion Award indicates that our efforts to increase the number of highly qualified, underrepresented minorities in medicine are succeeding. The award further supports our work as an HBCU medical school of merit and speaks even more fundamentally to the worth and value of our work. We believe it is our responsibility as forerunners to lead by example. Receiving this award demonstrates that our leadership in and our commitment to diversity and inclusion is recognized, and that in our movement forward, we are not alone.