Online Program

Diversifying the healthcare workforce: An innovative model targeting community college students

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 2:45 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Odichinma Akosionu, BS, Public Health Administration and Policy, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, School of Public Health, Minneapolis, MN
Ramon Hernandez, MPH, DrPH candidate, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA
While healthcare is one of the largest industries in our nation, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and American Indians together comprise less than 9% of nurses, 12% of physicians and 8% of dentists while they represent more than one-fourth of the US population. The lack of diversity among students choosing a career and being retained in the health sciences poses a challenge in the development of successful strategies for reducing health disparities, meeting the needs of the medically underserved and achieving the goals of Healthy People 2020.

One approach is to train individuals from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds, as they are more likely to serve and work with these targeted and at-risk populations. Student recruitment and retention strategies aimed at diversifying the “pipeline” to the health professions have primarily focused on high school students and college juniors and seniors; however, students from disadvantaged backgrounds overwhelmingly enter the post secondary education system through community colleges. In California 75% of all Latino and African American students who enroll in a four-year university begin at community college. Recognizing the diversity and potential of the student population that exists in the community colleges, the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine (UCSD SOM) developed the UniversityLink Medical Science Program (ULMSP) in 2001. ULMSP is a summer residential and year-long academic enrichment program that prepares community college students from underserved and disadvantaged backgrounds to transfer to UCSD or other four-year institutions, to graduate with majors in the biomedical, behavioral and health sciences, and to compete successfully for entry into graduate and health professions schools.

ULMSP students were tracked longitudinally over a 10-year period. As of 2011, 115 students have completed the program: 96% of the students have transferred to a four-year university; 94% graduated from college; and 84% have graduated with a degree in the sciences. These outcomes demonstrate that a student development program that focuses on academic skills, mentoring, networking and understanding institutional culture can improve the rates of transfer, retention, graduation in the sciences, and entry into graduate and professional schools. ULMSP alumni are integral to the ongoing success of the program and provide leadership as program staff, advocates, volunteers and mentors.

These outcomes and a cost analysis of the cost of the program strongly support ULMSP is an educational intervention model worth replicating at the local, state and national level to address health disparities in underserved populations.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe the components of a successful pipeline program targeting underrepresented and disadvantaged community college students Explain how a diverse healthcare workforce is integral to addressing health disparities Discuss the capacity-building efforts at the university level to recruit and retain community college students in the health and biomedical science

Keyword(s): Health Disparities, Health Care Advocates

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have over 20 years of experience working in the public health arena focussing on the implementation of youth development and academic enrichment programs for adolescents and young adults. I have a MPH in Health Administration and am a DrPH candidate in Maternal Child Health from Boston University School of Public Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.