AAMC, UNMC look to create diversity in health care workforce

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public affairs | December 20, 2006

The numbers speak for themselves.

Racial and ethnic minorities account for 25 percent of the nation's population, but they make up only 12 percent of U.S. medical school graduates.

In an effort to improve this number and increase racial and ethnic diversity in the physician workforce, the Association of American Medical Colleges recently unveiled its AspiringDocs.org campaign. UNMC is also working on creating more diversity in the physician workforce.

The cornerstone of the AAMC new campaign is a Web site designed to encourage black, Hispanic and American Indian undergraduate students to consider medical school.

"The AAMC is committed to changing the face of medicine," the organization said in a news release. "By providing undergraduate minority students with better support, information and guidance, we hope that AspiringDocs.org will help them say 'yes' to a fulfilling career in medicine."

The Web site introduces students to medical career options, preparation tips for the MCAT examination, advice on applying to and funding medical school and important deadline information concerning such applications.

"This resource will be a useful tool for increasing the awareness of students from underrepresented groups related to the preparation and processes required to pursue a medical career," said Mary McNamee, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and director of the UNMC Office of Student Equity and Multicultural Affairs. "It could serve as a good supplement to the efforts we are already making here at UNMC to promote health care diversity."

UNMC has taken innovative steps to improve racial and ethnic diversity in its student body. Some examples of these efforts are:

  • Developing the newly funded Robert Wood Johnson Summer Medical-Dental Education Program (SMDEP);
  • Starting the Nebraska University Pre-Admission to the Health Sciences (NU-PATHS) program, a collaborative program with the University of Nebraska campuses in Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha; and
  • Developing an affiliation pipeline with institutions serving primarily underrepresented students.

The SMDEP program brings 80 talented freshman or sophomore undergraduates from underserved groups to UNMC for a six-week intensive academic review and enrichment activities. The first summer was very successful and it is anticipated that some of these students will return for summer research experiences and apply for admission to UNMC programs when they complete their undergraduate programs.

Through the NU-PATHS program, students from groups underrepresented in health care and economically and/or educationally disadvantaged students are recruited as high school seniors to UNL, UNO or UNK.

If selected for the NU-PATHS program students receive scholarship for their undergraduate pre-requisite program and guaranteed admission to their selected program at UNMC.

Throughout their undergraduate program NU-PATHS students are mentored by faculty at their undergraduate campus and by their selected program at UNMC. Students become familiar with the UNMC campus through summer research experiences and frequent planned visits to UNMC.

This fall five NU-PATHS students transitioned to the UNMC College of Medicine to begin their professional medical education.

To further increase the awareness underrepresented/disadvantaged students interested in medical careers, in 2001 UNMC began a unique recruitment strategy of affiliating with minority-serving institutions such as Dillard University, New Orleans; Hampton University, Hampton, Va.; Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Va.; St. Paul's College, Lawrenceville, Va.; Virginia State University, Petersburg, Va.; Virginia Union University, Richmond, Va.; J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Richmond, Va.; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in Pine Bluff, Ark.; and Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colo.

UNMC currently has five students enrolled from Dillard University.

"We're looking forward to recruiting students from these institutions to UNMC to pursue their medical education," Dr. McNamee said. "Through increasing their awareness of the quality of our program and building a trusting mentoring relationship with them early in their undergraduate programs, we believe that we can impact the current disparity in the number of health care professionals from racial and ethnic groups and enhance the education provided to all students in our program."