Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine Receives Diversity Award

TouroCOM Receives National Higher Education HEED Award for Fifth Year for Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

October 11, 2023
underrepresented minority medical students standing in a line at celebration
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine Students

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) has received the 2023 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

As a recipient of the annual HEED Award - a national honor recognizing U.S. health colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion - TouroCOM will be featured along with 63 other recipients in the November/December 2023 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. This is the fifth year TouroCOM has been named a Health Professions HEED Award recipient.

“Our mission at TouroCOM is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities (URM) in medicine and to serve the underserved,” said Executive Dean Dr. Kenneth Steier. “We are very appreciative to be receiving this award in recognition of our efforts to attain diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Said Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nadege Dady, "I am proud of this effort highlighting the type of consistent work required to make our healthcare system accessible for all patients."

A Leader Among Osteopathic Schools

TouroCOM is a leader among the nation’s 41 osteopathic medical schools in educating URM physicians, according to the most recent data available from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

At the close of the 2022 academic year 17% of TouroCOM’s graduating class were URMs compared with a national average of 9.9%. Fall semester 2022, URMs made up 13% of the entering class at TouroCOM compared with a national average of 12%.

Since its inception in 2007, TouroCOM has graduated 359 URMS, constituting 15% of its graduates (including the class of 2023).

About half the school’s graduates accept residencies in the much-needed areas of primary care, and close to a third go to work in underserved communities or primary care shortage areas.

Multitude of Factors for Success

TouroCOM’s success is attributed to many factors, including scholarships; an abundance of community service opportunities; student-led clubs and organizations that provide opportunities for leadership, networking and shadowing; mentorship programs; supportive faculty; and a curriculum that covers health disparities and cultural competency.

TouroCOM also offers a popular one-year M.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences that prepares students for the rigors of medical school and is an entry to the DO program for those who perform well academically but may lack highly competitive MCAT scores, and resources to retake the test multiple times.

Geoffrey Campbell, OMS-IV, began with the master’s program. He chose TouroCOM because of its diversity initiatives and after graduation plans to start residency in neurology.

“TouroCOM is based in Harlem and is dedicated to supporting underserved communities and communities of color,” he said. “I knew they would prioritize my needs as a student, but also the causes that are dearest to me.”  

Campbell said he was especially impressed by a student-led recruitment program, “COMPASS” (for “Creating Osteopathic Minority Physicians Who Achieve Scholastic Success”), that reaches out to URM applicants to offer support.

“As a URM, there were many challenges. Networking opportunities were limited because there are not many physicians or scientists of color. It was very hard to find someone who looked like me to show me the way or set an example for what I could be in the future,” he said.

“Enacting Positive Change”

Another M.S.-to-DO student, Jelissa Hernandez Lopez, OMS-II, emigrated with her family from Equador to North Carolina when she was eight years old. She pursued medicine after witnessing her grandmother’s struggles to get care for diabetes. After residency, she hopes to open a free clinic for immigrants and people of color in a low-income area.

“I wanted to find a medical school that would support those dreams and aspirations,” she recalled.

TouroCOM offered a URM scholarship and she became active in the student-run Diversity Task Force and the Latino Medical Students Association. Today she mentors M.S. and first-year DO students, and high school students through the school’s popular MedAchieve STEM program.

“TouroCOM is telling me not only can I be a doctor, but I can also make the path easier for those who come after me. It’s empowering to be given the opportunity to enact positive change,” she said.