Underrepresented minorities – African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans - account for less than 9 percent of the physician workforce in the U.S., while together those groups comprise over 30 percent of the population.
Programs like CSU's Urban Health Fellows are designed to close that gap. Students receive valuable academic and social support, and the fellowships also come with financial assistance, which is key.
Research points to the need to address structural barriers as well. Julia Michaels, with the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, studies
how programs like the Urban Health Fellows can be more effective in getting more minority health care providers into the field. She said in addition to programs that serve students directly, it is also critical for universities to make policy-level changes.
For instance, Michaels said, increasing faculty diversity and implementing holistic admissions criteria that look beyond test scores and GPAs to “…things like cultural competence, communication skills, all sorts of things that really make for a good nurse or make for a good doctor.”
In fact, research shows that building more diverse classes “doesn’t just benefit minority students, it benefits every student who’s in the class by having that experience,” Michaels added.
Taken together, these strategies can help universities like Cleveland State be a driving force in addressing the problem of health disparities.