In this letter from the OCOM Board of Trustees, we seek to find a common language of appreciation for different lived experiences, and to keep the OCOM community informed regarding changes to our name. We are embracing this unique challenge to both honor the cultural heritage of our medicine and find ways to do so that are inclusive and that do not carry the weight of historical oppressions associated with earlier language used to describe our medicine.
The OCOM Board of Trustees remains acutely aware of the complexity and nuance related to changing OCOM’s name. Concerns and discussion about the use of the word “Oriental” have been central to discussions for more than a decade, both within OCOM’s community and throughout the entire profession. Despite community outreach, surveys, and meetings with the staff and students of OCOM, there has not been a clear path forward or common agreement upon alternative terminology for our medicine. We understand that some members of our community proudly self-identify as “Oriental,” while some members of our community feel that this terminology is problematic.
Although there were some trends in the findings, the most important observation was that opinions varied greatly regarding the word “Oriental” in OCOM’s name, and that our community has a tremendous amount of diversity in their lived experiences, which includes but is not limited to ethnic, cultural and racial identity, age, and immigrant status. Even among those with similar experiences, such as within families, there were differences of opinion.
OCOM continues to work to navigate a path forward, to find language that accurately describes and embraces the whole of our medicine, and that invites the whole of our learning community to be fully invested in our mission to transform health care by educating highly skilled and compassionate practitioners, providing exemplary patient care, and engaging in innovative research within a community of service and healing.
As the clouds of pandemic management continue to dissipate, we will be able to refocus resources to create a name that embodies our core culture of compassion, advocacy, and respect. Such work is a gift to us all, and we aim to find a name that honors that heritage and all the history that OCOM represents.
Karen M. Williams, JD
Chair, OCOM Board of Trustees