Omar Salman, fourth-year medical student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, has been chosen for the second year for a national leadership position for the American Medical Association (AMA) as the chair of the Committee on LGBTQ+ Issues.  

The AMA said Salman was selected from “a competitive national pool of applicants” for the honor. He served as founding chair of the committee last year.

In the role, Salman has been able to champion LGBTQ+ issues, with a particular focus on issues of blood donor discrimination against gay and bisexual men and medical leave for LGBTQ+ employees and their caretakers.

In 2016, he wrote a resolution for the AMA that opposed discriminatory blood donor criteria for gay and bisexual men. Currently, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance requires a one-year deferral for men who have had sex with men to donate blood. Salman’s resolution proposed a science-based method to assess risk for each blood donor instead. The AMA supported the idea, leading to some national attention from the FDA and Human Rights Campaign.

In addition, Salman has led national trainings and worked with a number of national and international organizations to develop curricula and lead trainings for medical student and physician competence in treating LGBTQ+ patients.

“I'm interested in the intersection of culture and medicine,” said Salman. “Studies show there are better patient outcomes when patients feel like a provider is someone who understands them culturally or ethnically or religiously. We all can benefit from being in a more understanding and accepting society. We can be part of that as future physicians.”

At the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Salman founded the VTCSOM Student National Medical Association, which focuses on diversity issues in medicine. He also volunteers with the Roanoke Diversity Center and has held leadership roles with the Medical Society of Virginia (MSV), a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving patient access.

In 2017, the MSV Foundation awarded Salman the Salute to Service Award for Service by a Medical Student or Resident. The Point Foundation, a national LGBTQ+ Scholarship Fund, named Salman a 2017 Janssen Infectious Diseases Scholar.

Salman is also a recipient of scholarships from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, including the Morgan Dana Harrington Memorial Scholarship and the Charter Class Scholarship.

When Salman graduates in May 2019, he plans to pursue a residency in pediatrics with the ultimate goal of a career in pediatric hematology and oncology, but hopes to continue working with LGBTQ+ patients, particularly adolescents and patents from ethnic minorities and underserved backgrounds.