Dean's Update 2021-07

July 8, 2021

We are now welcoming over 300 new students from the Class of 2025 to our medical campuses. This group of students is one of our strongest academically as well as one of the most diverse classes ever to matriculate into our college. These students are also exemplary because of their efforts to participate in “real world” life and medical experiences. As the dean, I am proud that these students represent our future as a DO profession—given the caliber of this class, our collective futures are bright!

The achievements and diverse composition of this incoming class is even more notable against the backdrop that the entire DO profession, including our college, is still gearing up to create better pathways for future physicians from diverse experiences to enter osteopathic medical schools in proportion to their percentages in our communities. Our entire profession will benefit maximally as we make headway in this area.

For example, publicly available data from the AACOM and AAMC shows that we have some challenges to overcome. Based on the most recent data from 2018-2019, the percent of all medical school applicants who self-identify as being from an underrepresented in medicine (URiM) group is significantly less than the percentages of URiMs present in the entirety of the U.S population. Compounding this clear disparity, DO schools matriculate a disproportionately smaller percentage of URiM applicants as compared to all medical schools nationwide. Finally, our student body also draws heavily from the state of Michigan, yet the state is significantly less diverse than that of the country as a whole.

Given these realities, we as a college have identified several areas we can address to improve our capacity to matriculate the most diverse student body we can. One priority area is to expose URiMs to the DO profession early on in their life experiences to spark an interest in applying to, and ultimately matriculating into an osteopathic medical school. Many of our efforts to meet these critical challenges emanate from the admissions and student life offices of the college, led by Associate Dean Ruger. In the following section, you can learn more about how our college is attempting to meet and overcome these important challenges to our future profession.

Creating pathways to osteopathic medical school: SpartanDO feeder programs inspire and build skills in the next generation of physicians

As an osteopathic medical college with strong community-based hospital partnerships, the college has long understood that health care improves when doctors reflect the diverse communities they serve. This increases patient trust, expands peer awareness of issues and introduces new perspectives and cultural nuances. In order to attract the best and brightest Ruger.jpgstudents and to overcome systematic barriers that underrepresented communities may face in entering the medical profession, the college is deepening its investment in a network of feeder programs that create direct pathways to osteopathic medical school.

Building on the success of the college’s existing high school recruitment programs—such as OsteoCHAMPS and Future DOcs, both of which provide mentorship and hands-on experience—as well as the Osteopathic Medical Scholarship Program (OMSP), which gives MSU undergraduates the opportunity to explore health care, the college has implemented several new pathway programs to increase outreach to individuals who are traditionally underrepresented in medicine (URiM), especially students of color and students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. The college is now proudly ranked first among medical schools in Michigan to retain and graduate students who are URiM, and has experienced a 50% increase in URiM applicants since 2016.

“Our vision for the pathway programs is to create an ecosystem that helps develop skills and interest in osteopathic medicine, and  creates linear pathways to enter into the profession,” says Katherine Ruger, Ed.D., associate dean of admissions and student life.

“These pathways provide an opportunity to connect students with mentors and offer them professional development which will help students realize their potential as physician leaders,” she adds.

Newer feeder pathway programs include:

  • The 3+4 Program, which waives the MCAT and interview process for eligible undergrads majoring in biology at Lyman Briggs College and allows them to enter medical school in what would traditionally be their senior year of college.
  • A soon-to-be-launched OsteoCHAMPS Upper Peninsula program to recruit students from rural settings.
  • A new agreement that reserves positions for eligible University of Michigan Postbac MEDPREP Program students, a program that focuses on non-traditional students or career changers.
  • A new collaboration with the NatSci Charles Drew Science Scholars Program starting this fall to provide mentorship for underrepresented undergraduate students in science and medicine and an opportunity to waive the MCAT requirement.

While outreach for each pathway program varies, activities include partnering with high school counselors, science teachers and principals; local community and science-oriented programs; rural health departments; churches; and pre-health undergraduate advisors.

Outreach also takes the form of engaging medical student ambassadors through SpartanDO’s ACE program to serve as mentors for students in Future DOcs, OMSP and OsteoCHAMPS.

The investments in the community outreach have yielded strong results: over 90% of OMSP undergraduate participants matriculate into the College of Osteopathic Medicine. After graduating high school, many Future DOcs participants have matriculated into OMSP as undergrads, and many more are expected to do so in the coming years. Across the feeder programs, there are over 1,300 pre-college alumni and 776 OsteoCHAMPS alumni.

The faculty and staff of the college are heartened by the impact of these programs, which translates into more caring and capable physicians joining the SpartanDO community to enrich the health of local, regional, national and international communities. Recruiting different voices not only adds representations of issues into health care but expands the influence and legacy of the college. To echo a recent statement by Dean Amalfitano, “Diverse experiences empower our entire curriculum.”

“We’re excited about the new agreements we initiated this year, and the new relationships we forged to continue to develop our future physicians,” Dr. Ruger says. “With an expanded team of community partners, we have an increased capacity to make an impact on broadening the accessibility of medical school as well as on the impact a diverse group of DOs will have on community health care.”

Andy Amalfitano

Katherine Ruger
Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Life

Learn more about SpartanDO feeder programs and how you can contribute to influencing future generations of physicians by contacting Dr. Katherine Ruger at