According to Civil Rights Data Collection statistics, 71 percent of white high school students attend schools that offer a full range of math and science courses, which in turn create more opportunities for health science careers. However, less than half of American Indian and Alaska Native high school students, 57 percent of African-American students and 67 percent of Latino students have access to the full range of math and science courses. Furthermore, students of color have not accessed post-secondary education or earned degrees at the same rates as white students, particularly in medical school.
The Health Sciences Multicultural and Community Affairs (HS-MACA) Office at Creighton University in Nebraska has committed to reducing these educational disparities, and is training a multicultural health care workforce to expand culturally competent health services in diverse communities. HS-MACA’s pipeline initiative is designed to increase the share of minority students who are studying for careers in the health sciences – students from groups that are currently underrepresented, including blacks/ African-Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics/Latinos, and specific Asian ethnicities. These students ultimately become strong applicants for competitive programs in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and other health science disciplines.
When Creighton began this work in 1975, it was one of the first institutions to establish the Post-Baccalaureate (PB) Program that provides an additional year of academic preparation following undergraduate education before acceptance into medical or dental school for those underrepresented students who need it. Along with the PB Program, Creighton developed a successful summer-only program for provisionally accepted minority students studying medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dentistry and other health science occupations. Thanks to Creighton University’s PB and Pre- Matriculation Programs – widely regarded as innovative, effective and replicable – today, 450 practicing physicians, dentists, pharmacists and other health professionals have successfully completed their professional education. Most of these professionals now practice in rural and underserved communities. Building on its earlier efforts, including the now-retired Health Careers Opportunity Program and the Center for Excellence Program, Creighton University has developed six additional pipeline programs: Focus on Health Professions; Middle School Initiative; Sudanese Student Learning Initiative; Summer Research Institute; High School Health Disparities Community- Based Research Program; and, Summer Biomedical Health Disparities Research Training Program. These programs have introduced hundreds of young people to health science careers, beginning in the fourth grade and continuing through middle school, high school, college and beyond. During the 2013- 2014 academic year alone, 839 students participated in these programs.
Through these programs, young people gain exposure to career opportunities they otherwise might not have considered. Mentors encourage students to establish short- and long-term educational and professional goals and to make educational choices that foster an ongoing interest in health sciences. The Health Sciences Multicultural and Community Affairs Office continues to be recognized for its innovative work to raise the next generation of talented health professionals who are culturally diverse, culturally aware and dedicated to eliminating health disparities in our communities.
Contributed by: Jennifer Klimowicz, Program Supervisor, Health Science – Multicultural and Community Affairs at Creighton University and Mervin Vasser, Assistant Director, Health Science – Multicultural and Community Affairs at Creighton University
This article was published in the NPA Fall 2014 Newsletter and is on page 12.