To the Editor:
Transitioning to medical school is notoriously and undoubtedly difficult. Transitioning to medical school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial reckoning, on the other hand, seems almost impossible. Not only do students have to adjust to academic rigor and develop as professionals, but now they must also determine how to learn and to find a sense of community during the pandemic. Many of them are moving across the country into a new community where they may know only a few fellow incoming classmates, if any at all. Integrating into a new community is difficult, and often relies on conversations and social interactions, which now come with a significantly greater risk for all of those involved.
At Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, we, along with the other student representatives from our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council and the Office of Admissions student ambassadors, worked to create the Diversity and Inclusion Recommendation Guide. As a private institution, we have a large group of out-of-state students who empathize with the difficulty of trying to discover the resources to find and assimilate their cultural identity in a new location. We asked the entire student body for recommendations about community essentials—such as houses of worship, specialty grocery stores, volunteering opportunities, salons and hairdressers, and authentic ethnic restaurants, as well as parenting resources for those who needed them—and our colleagues answered the call.
Collectively, we received over 60 recommendations, which we compiled into a single document and distributed to incoming students in July 2020 as students began moving into the area before the beginning of classes. The document serves as a way to welcome those students into our community and help them to find their way in a new place during a time where community can be hard to come by. We also included all of the diversity-and-inclusion-related student organizations and their respective second-year leaders, so that if a needed resource was not specifically recommended, the student had someone to contact directly for help.
This is not a normal year. However, there are still ways to be innovative and create a sense of community, especially for our incoming first-year colleagues who already face tremendous pressure and stress. We hope that by sharing a description of this relatively easy initiative, medical students or administrators from other institutions may be able to find time to create a similar resource—especially focused on diversity and inclusion—for their incoming students during this unprecedented time.
The authors wish to thank the other student representatives from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, as well as Berkley Browne, PhD, Caryn Reed-Hendon, PhD, Deirdre Pitts, PhD, and Daniel Kallenberger, MS, for their support throughout the process of making the recommendation guide.