Membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (AΩA) is a widely recognized achievement valued by residency selection committees and employers. Yet research has shown selection favors students from racial/ethnic groups not underrepresented in medicine (not-UIM). The authors describe efforts to create equity in AΩA selection at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, through implementation of a holistic selection process, starting with the class of 2017, and present outcomes.
Informed by the definition of holistic review, medical school leaders applied strategic changes grounded in evidence on inclusion, mitigating bias, and increasing opportunity throughout the AΩA selection process. These addressed increasing selection committee diversity, revising selection criteria and training committee members to review applications using a new instrument, broadening student eligibility and inviting applications, reviewing blinded applications, and making final selection decisions based on review and discussion of a rank-ordered list of students that equally weighted academic achievement and professional contributions.
The authors compared AΩA eligibility and selection outcomes for 3 classes (2014–2016) during clerkship metric–driven selection, which prioritized academic achievement, and 3 classes (2017–2019) during holistic selection. During clerkship metric–driven selection, not-UIM students were 4 times more likely than UIM students to be eligible for AΩA (P = .001) and 3 times more likely to be selected (P = .001). During holistic selection, not-UIM students were 2 times more likely than UIM students to be eligible for AΩA (P = .001); not-UIM and UIM students were similarly likely to be selected (odds ratio = .7, P = .12)
This new holistic selection process created equity in representation of UIM students among students selected for AΩA. Centered on equity pedagogy, which advocates dismantling structures that create inequity, this holistic selection process has implications for creating equity in awards selection during medical education.