Of the 12 violations the Liaison Committee on Medical Education placed on Wayne State’s School of Medicine in June, there is one that sticks out for WSU President M. Roy Wilson: the lack of student diversity.
“That’s a big one. That’s one I had some real concerns about,” Wilson said at a Student Senate meeting June 16. “The focus was taken off of diversity, and the past five years it really has come down to this.”
But before the LCME accrediting agency visited in March, Wilson says he was already working with SOM Dean Jack Sobel to the fix the problem.
“I had asked Dean Sobel to put together a task force and have a report to me by May on how we’re going to improve diversity,” Wilson said at the meeting. “That task force actually starting working before the LCME came out for a visit.”
The SOM Diversity and Inclusion Task Force plans to increase African-American, Hispanic, Native American and socioeconomically disadvantaged student enrollment in the medical school.
Sobel announced the appointment of Herbert Smitherman Jr., assistant dean of community and urban health, as vice dean for diversity and inclusion on June 6. Smitherman also co-chairs the task force.
“Diversity is an important paradigm in order to improve health status for this country,” said Smitherman. “We can't have a more diversified society, and (a) less diverse workforce. That's not going to work.”
Smitherman will provide “leadership for the recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented minority students in undergraduate medical education,” according to the task force’s report.
Smitherman says this is the first time the LCME has cited possible probation for WSU.
“It is a rare occurrence for us,” he said. “We have typically been in leadership roles as it relates to graduating underrepresented minorities in the United States,” he said.
At the June 16 Student Senate meeting, Wilson said that it is not unusual for the LCME to cite medical schools for probationary action. When he was at the University of Colorado, he said “they went through probationary action for lack of diversity, too.” And the University of Colorado, he continued, “by all measures is one of the top public medical schools in the county.”
In 2006, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Proposal 2, was passed to ban public institutions from using race, gender or ethnicity as a way of selecting students.
“We are trying to work within the framework of (Proposal 2) which was supported by the Supreme Court to make sure we maintain diversity,” Smitherman said.
“We used to go to every single public institution and most of the colleges in Michigan to present and talk to the pre-med organizations within those institutions as a recruitment method, and that had stopped,” Smitherman said. “Some of our pipeline program efforts had stopped because we did not have the personnel or the resources to continue that kind of outreach.”
Smitherman said WSU is establishing a budget to invest in the outreach and recruitment of underrepresented minorities.
“This will be solved and we will come back up to our national standing as number one of all majority schools of the United States,” he said.
The LCME will hold a reconsideration hearing beginning October 16 to decide if the WSU medical school will remain on probation. LCME Secretary Dan Hunt says if the agency decides to put the medical school on probation, the university will have to prepare a new plan.
“They’ll also have a visit from two secretaries – myself and the secretary in Chicago – and we will go there to assist in the development of that (plan),” Hunt said.
Wilson says the probationary action currently does not affect the medical school’s accreditation.