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Eva’s Excerpt October 2021

I hope you will indulge me in a little bragging— I know, it’s counter-culture to Wash U and the Midwest in general, but I think it’s necessary. There are a lot of things I could choose to brag about in education right now, but I am going to start with Admissions (and hopefully explain how we all have played a part in this success). We have always had truly exceptional medical students, so making changes in our recruitment and selection processes may not be intuitive. Yet we have striven to do so. Why?

Washington University School of Medicine will lead in advancing human health through the promotion of wellness and delivery of outstanding health care, innovative research and the education of tomorrow’s leaders in biomedicine within a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking and creativity. This is our vision statement. The imperative that a diverse and inclusive workforce and team results in better health outcomes for all has grown as a critical mission and value of our school in recent years. The Dean and Executive Faculty made this a priority across the School in 2017. Dr. Ratts and her team on the Committee on Admissions (COA) have made immense progress in a very short time in this domain and this is what I intend to brag about today.

First, the number of applications to the MD program have skyrocketed. While applications were up nationally last year, ours were up well above the national average- a 24.5% increase. That trend has continued this year and applications as of September are up even more! Yay, we are popular. This is important because it has also changed who has applied and who has accepted our offers of admission. (Figure 1) Among this year’s incoming class, almost 30% self-identify as under-represented in medicine! And this is only one metric describing the remarkable diversity of this incoming class.

What is responsible for these outcomes? Based on the data I have seen, I think it is a constellation of changes working together to have a synergistic impact. The first is directly attributable to Dean Ratts and COA and the changes they have made to the selection process. In the last few years, in addition to adapting to virtual interviews as a result of COVID, admissions has implemented a video interview to assess core values of the School of Medicine including critical thinking, resiliency in the face of change, and an appreciation of a diverse and inclusive culture. This added a new measure to our selection process. In addition, they have added a closed file review, to reduce the overall impact of metrics alone as a driver of interview and acceptance. Finally, they have doubled down on anti-racism and anti-bias training and implementation of holistic review processes to ensure that all aspects of an applicant’s story are considered in the process. Second, is the curriculum. When I started here 4 years ago, the curriculum was one of the most common reasons that accepted students chose not to enroll at Wash U. Now, it is one of the drivers for both applying to and choosing Wash U. Third, of course, is the commitment the Dean has made to enhancing scholarships. There is no question that reducing the debt of our students while providing them with an outstanding education, is a hard deal to pass up.

These are excellent accomplishments worth celebrating. And there is much work still to be done. A big part of that work is ensuring we have a diverse AND inclusive community within the student body and at the residency, fellowship, faculty and staff level. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the work of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI). Working with departments, we are successfully making headway in diversifying these populations. Perhaps more importantly, we have begun the critical process of creating a truly equitable and inclusive environment. This will not be fast and it will be hard, but it is so important. Launching this month will be the Understanding Systemic Racism Curriculum, which will roll out to departments and programs iteratively. Much of this curriculum is based on what our build teams and coaches have been taught as the foundation for Gateway and is consistent with what our students are being taught in the new curriculum. The Department Chairs voted unanimously to make this curriculum required for all house staff, faculty and staff. Yes, there is much to do, and it is time to celebrate the progress we are making and the commitment we have made to this important culture change. While I am calling out admissions and ODEI today, we all get to own these successes because we are all collaborating to create this environment that allows these successes to occur. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back and recognize your part in these critical wins.

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