Osteopathic physician organization hopes Harlem school will boost minority enrollments.

One goal of the medical school is to help relieve disparities in health care.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted April 23, 2007

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When the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York opens this fall, it will be the first minority-focused medical college within the osteopathic medical community.

It also will be the only medical school located in Harlem.

School officials plan to recruit from minority populations in the area and intend to run summer boot camps for high school and college students to bolster science and math skills among potential minority applicants.

Officials hope that 10% of its first class of 125 students will be minorities. They want that number to increase to 25% in 10 years. Since January, the school has received 1,500 applications and filled two-thirds of its first class. The number of minorities admitted was not yet available.

Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, president and CEO of the American Assn. of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, said medical educators have struggled to get enrollment aligned with changing U.S. demographics, and the new school is one approach.

The osteopathic educational association has a number of schools in rural, underserved areas that have been successful in admitting local students who have stayed to practice, Dr. Shannon said. He hopes the Harlem college will have a similar impact on the urban underserved.

"All health care professions should reflect the populations they will be serving," he said. "We've learned as osteopaths that where a school is makes a difference."

Martin Diamond, DO, the Harlem school's dean and chief academic officer, acknowledged that med schools in general are competing for a limited number of qualified minority students. The new school hopes to expand that pool by tapping into existing minority college prep programs in New York City and starting new ones.

The 75,000-square-foot facility will be located across from the historic Apollo Theatre. It will house amphitheater lecture halls, classrooms, offices, support facilities, clinical skills training facilities, state-of-the-art laboratories and a multimedia library. The school is hiring 40 full-time and 100 part-time faculty. Startup costs are pegged at $15 million to $20 million, with most funding coming from private sources, officials said.

The Harlem medical school is the 26th osteopathic medical campus and the third medical school within Touro's system, which also has medical colleges in California and Nevada.

Charles Terrell, EdD, vice president for the division of diversity policy and programs for the Assn. of American Medical Colleges, said he hoped the Touro campus would build on the tradition of the four historically black medical schools in the U.S.

"It's helpful to send every message that we can that there's a dire need for underrepresented minorities in medicine," Dr. Terrell said.

The AAMC is in the midst of a pilot program to encourage more minority biology majors to apply to medical school. Biology majors make up the bulk of applicants. Yet while the number of black, Hispanic and Native American biology majors has been on the rise, the percentage applying to medical school has fallen.

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