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Care Why Diversity Matters in the Health Professions

Increasing diversity among health professionals improves access to health care for everyone

iversity in the health professions is par- amount to the nation’s need to elimi- nate inequities in the quality and availabil- ity of health care for underserved popula- tions. “Increasing racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is important because evidence indicates that among other benefits, it is associated with improved access to health care for racial and ethnic minority patients, greater pa- tient choice and satisfaction, and better educational experiences for health profes- sions students.” Among the key players in increasing


diversity are the institutions that educate health professionals, health professions associations, and individuals who con- tribute to high quality, culturally compe- tent health care initiatives and programs. Two

landmark initiatives commis-

sioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2004 (an Institute of Medicine panel and the Sullivan Commission) documented the need to address the diversity chal- lenge: In the Nation’s Compelling Inter- est: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce, by the Institute of Medicine, and Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions, by the Sullivan Com- mission. Both studies provide directions and strategies to increase diversity within the health professions. The Sullivan Com- mission’s report stated: “The fact that the nation’s health professions have not kept pace with changing demographics may be an even greater cause of disparities in health access and outcomes than the per- sistent lack of health insurance for tens of millions of Americans.” Both reports concur that accrediting health professions institutions and pro- grams play a vital role in leveraging prog- ress.

The American Dental Education Asso- ciation (ADEA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), both based in Washington, DC, are two


organizations that are leaders in diversity initiatives in higher education. Dr. Jeanne C. Sinkford, ADEA’s Associate Executive Director and Director for the Center for Equity and Diversity, served on the Sulli- van Commission. Following are a few of the many diversity initiatives both organi- zations have implemented to increase di- versity in dentistry and medicine.

Best Practice Models in Diversity

The ADEA Minority Dental Faculty

Development Program, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was created to recruit underrepresented minority and low-income senior predoctoral and post- doctoral students and junior faculty into faculty positions. This program was ad- ministered by ADEA from 2004 to 2009. The ADEA/W.K. Kellogg Foundation Access to Dental Careers grant funding supported the recruitment component of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Com- munity-Based Dental Education program. The California Endowment has provided funding for five of the 15 schools that are now included in this project. ADEA participates in the Health Pro- fessionals for Diversity (HPD) Coalition, which is comprised of more than 50 health organizations across the health profes- sions disciplines. The Coalition was reac- tivated by AAMC in response to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding affirma- tive action decisions resulting from chal- lenges to the University of Michigan. The Coalition addresses opportunities and challenges to promoting diversity in the post-decisions environment and building support for diversity across the health pro- fessions.

ADEA publishes Opportunities for Minority Students in U.S. Dental Schools, the only biennial publication designed to

attract minority students to careers in den- tistry. This unique resource guide contains information of interest to minority stu- dents in all U.S. dental schools. The ADEA Admissions Committee

Workshop is a half-day interactive work- shop conducted at the invitation of dental schools seeking to admit and enroll pred- octoral, postdoctoral, and allied dental students from diverse backgrounds. Near- ly all dental schools that have hosted the workshop have implemented new strate- gies resulting in significant increases in enrollment of underrepresented minority students.

And of course, ADEA administers EHC’s mission is to help solve two urgent prob- lems in American health care: the under- representation of minorities in the work- force, and the lack of health professionals in medically underserved communities. “ADEA is pleased to support EHC as a valuable resource for access to careers across the health professions. EHC is in- tended to help expand the pool of students that will pursue health careers in the fu- ture,” stated Dr. Sandra Andrieu, ADEA President. Like ADEA, the AAMC has worked for more than four decades to increase di- versity in medical education and to ad- vance health care equity in the United States. AAMC efforts focus on three gen- eral areas: diversifying the applicant pool, serving applicants and medical students, and supporting medical school faculty and administration. A few of AAMC’s initiatives include

the Holistic Review Project that develops tools and resources medical schools can use to create and sustain medical student diversity and the Herbert W. Nickens Award, which continues to advance Dr. Nickens’ concerns about the educational, societal, and health care needs of minori- ties.

The Black E.O.E. Journal

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