New OHSU Diversity Program Succeeds In Enrolling More Disadvantaged Students In Medical School

08/16/07  Portland, Ore.

The first four students admitted to OHSU School of Medicine via the school’s new post-baccalaureate diversity program will be among 120 first-year students attending OHSU’s White Coat Ceremony tomorrow.

First-year students in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine will be officially welcomed into the medical profession tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 17. During the ceremony, they will don for the first time the universally recognized and respected mantle of physicians – a white coat. The students will be "cloaked" by medical school faculty in the presence of family and friends.

Although the OHSU White Coat Ceremony takes place every year, this one is different. Among the 120 entering students expected to graduate in 2011 are the first four students to earn admittance through OHSU's new Diversity Achievement Post-Baccalaureate Conditional Acceptance Program. The program, administered by School of Medicine faculty and students, is designed to identify historically underrepresented students. Students like J. (Dodie) Salvador de la Cruz, 25, of Portland.

De la Cruz is among a subset of promising students who traditionally have faced socioeconomic, educational and cultural barriers to medical, physician assistant and other health care schools. Through the new post-bac program and other diversity projects, OHSU is committed to breaking down the barriers that keep disadvantaged students from becoming health care professionals. 

"Our goal is to move closer to the day when our community of health care professionals mirrors the demographics of our patients. We will pursue diversity of all types, including socioeconomic, cultural and geographic," said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean, OHSU School of Medicine. "The post-bac program is just one means by which we are achieving that goal."

De la Cruz came to Oregon from the Philippines at age 12. He graduated from La Salle High School in Milwaukie, Ore., receiving an academic scholarship to Willamette University where he earned his bachelor's in biology. He then applied for and was accepted to OHSU's post-bac program, an intense, three-term program that helps prepare aspiring medical students through a rigorous math and science curriculum, academic advising and support, a clinical preceptorship, and medical student mentoring.

"The post-bac program was excellent preparation for the medical school admissions test. It put me on track to finally realize my childhood dream of becoming a doctor. I am grateful for the opportunity," said de la Cruz, who intends to specialize in pediatric oncology, pediatric cardiology or pediatric surgery. "I've always gravitated toward children. It doesn't feel like work when I'm around kids and doing something I love – medicine."

De la Cruz and his wife, Amariek Jensen, a second-year OHSU medical student from Silverton, Ore., do not want to leave Oregon after medical school; rather, they hope to complete their residencies at OHSU, then practice in a rural area like John Day.

A total of eight students were accepted into last year's post-bac program. Four are first-year medical students at OHSU, one will enter the OHSU physician assistant program, and the other three plan to pursue health care education in other venues.

"We are extremely proud of our post-bac students," said Ella Booth, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity and director of the post-bac program. "We continue to seek a diverse student body for an increasingly diverse Oregon population and increased efforts for further diversity enhancement are well under way."

The post-bac program was initially funded through a grant from the Health Careers Opportunity Program of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, but federal support was abruptly cut. In response, dean Richardson committed funds to offer the school's post-bac program to a smaller group of students this academic year. Four new students have been accepted to the program.

"Through the post-bac and other diversity pipeline programs at OHSU, we anticipate that motivated students like Dodie who face economic and educational obstacles will continue to gain admission to health care professional programs," said Edward Keenan, Ph.D., associate dean for medical education, OHSU School of Medicine.

The Spirit Mountain Community Fund recently awarded a grant to the School of Medicine to achieve even greater student diversity by supporting expanded outreach and preparatory programs at undergraduate institutions in Oregon.

"As a tribal foundation, we are proud to support programs that improve opportunity for ethnically diverse students. Seeing culturally diverse medical care providers in Oregon is a dream for our tribe and foundation," said director Shelley Hanson.

To be eligible for the post-bac program, students must articulate the educational, economic or social disadvantages that have impacted their academic progress. They must further demonstrate a commitment to medicine and compassionate care. Students enrolled in the post-bac program will be conditionally accepted into the School of Medicine. To gain admission, they must complete the post-bac program as well as meet OHSU's academic standards and admissions criteria.

For more information about the Diversity Achievement Post-Baccalaureate Conditional Acceptance Program, contact OHSU Academic and Student Affairs, acad@ohsu.edu.


-- 120 students (65 Female ; 55 male ? more women than men mirrors a national trend)

-- Their race (as described by the student):

·        3 African American or Black

·        1 Amer. Indian or Alaskan Native

·        18 Asian or Asian Indian

·        3 Mexican Amer./Chicano/Chicana

·        1 Other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino

·        87 White

·        7 no response

-- Their residence

·        84 Oregonians (the trend toward admitting more Oregonians continues to increase)

·        36 Nonresidents



The White Coat Ceremony creates an important focus for students entering medical school. In the presence of family, friends and faculty members, student-physicians are welcomed into the profession of medicine and are cloaked with their first white coats. The class members and physicians also stand to recite the Oath of Geneva, pledging their commitment to their teachers, patients, colleagues and profession.

Through involvement in this meaningful ritual at the beginning of medical school, student-physicians become more aware of their professional responsibilities. The ceremony impresses upon them the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship. It also encourages them to accept t obligations inherent in the practice of medicine: to be excellent in science, to be compassionate, and to lead lives of uprightness and honor It emphasize for students the physician's responsibility to take care of patients and also to care for patients. The message is conveyed is that physicians must care as well as cure. 

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